Thursday, March 29, 2012


I have the floor welded in, and the gap filled.  There are some small pinholes and things to correct--mostly places where my spot welds didn't join up too well.  Nothing that a few zaps with the Hobart won't fix.

The tough part is going to be finishing work.  I've started grinding everything down, making the seam as invisible as I possibly can without wrecking the repair.

I picked up a small DeWalt air compressor, a D55168.  It had an overwhelming number of positive reviews, and seems like it should be enough to do what I need.  It is a little bit lightweight for constant use of a die grinder--I've found that it has to work a little to keep up.  It's rated at 5 cfm at 90 psi, which is more than enough for the die grinder I picked up.  I haven't picked up an impact wrench yet, but that will be my next tool purchase, I believe.  A half-inch impact wrench would do me wonders.

It's very nice to have some compressed air for cleaning things up, too.  I will have to see if a small sand/soda blaster will work with this compressor.  I may want to get one of those in the near future.

The next major hurdle is going to be the quarter panel replacement.  I still haven't ordered the replacement panels, but that's just a matter of jumping online and placing the order.  I think I'll get the quarters from Classic Industries.  I don't have any real complaints of Rick's Camaro, I just want to see if Classic's are any better.  Supposedly the ones from them are "factory approved", which could end up meaning diddly squat.  There's no significant price difference.

Before moving to the quarters, I am going to try and do a major cleanup of all the old asphalt-based undercoating.  It's a real bear.  Oven cleaner doesn't touch it--and I've tried both hot and cold formulas.  Aircraft stripper has a visible effect, but it's very minor.  I think what I'll have to do is wire-wheel as much of the heavy stuff off as I can, and then go over it with aircraft stripper to finish up with.  That undercoating is nasty.

At very least, I have to clean out the wheel wells.  Part of the quarter panel replacement will be replacing the outer wheel houses.  The inner ones look OK, but I'll have to have it all cleaned up and apart to know if they're truly good-to-go.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

On the Nature of Rear Ends

The reason that the limited-slip differential I scored at the junkard wouldn't work is complex. . .

For the benefit of potential non-car-person readers, I'd like to explain.  If nothing else, this is a good exercise in remembering this stuff. Anyhoo. . . With these F-bodies, you'll run into two main types of rear axle assemblies:  The 10-bolt, and the 12-bolt.  There are quite a few subdivisions of those two types.

12-bolts are generally stronger, and preferred for cars with more horsepower than sense.  I believe that the early Z-28's had 12-bolts, and probably some (but not all) of the SS models would've had them too.  Certainly all the big-block Camaros would've had them.  12-bolts are getting pretty hard to come by in the junkyard, I guess.  I've never bothered looking for one.  I'm not going to get into 12-bolts, because I simply know less than nothing about them.  I do know that a brand-new one can cost as much as $2,000.  Which is a little stupid, if you ask me.

There are two kinds of 10-bolts, one with an 8.5" carrier, and one with an 8.2" carrier.  My understanding is the 8.5" carrier is the next best thing to a 12-bolt. And can be built up pretty respectable.

NOTE:  You want to know the basic difference between a Chevy 12 and a 10 bolt?  count the number of bolts on the back of the pumpkin.  It's just that easy.

My 10-bolt is the 8.2".  Of course, the poor little thing had almost the smallest available engine (the 235 was smaller, but just).  So there's really no need for a bulletproof rear axle setup.

Now the funny part.  In the 3rd Generation F-bodies (1983-1993), there was born the 7.5" 10-bolt.  Which is why that limited-slip differential wouldn't work in my rear end.  It's just too small.  They also gave birth to a 9-bolt rear end.  But since that's plainly odd-number blasphemy, we won't even acknowledge its existence.

Of course, this is a super-dumbed down version of the real story.  In reality, General Motors created a bewildering amount of variety in these old parts.  Back in the day, the way you bought a car was by going through a big hairy form, and checking all the boxes of the stuff you wanted on the car.  They were customized in a way that simply isn't done anymore.  These days you get one or two choices of package groups, and very few real options.

What that means is that there are literally thousands of variations in the old stuff.  And they can be very subtle.

More importantly, what am I going to do with the rear axle in my car?  Probably nothing.  If I could find a limited-slip that would work, for cheap, I'd grab it up.  But I'm not about to dump down $500 for a new differential.  Not yet, anyhow.  I'll continue to troll the junkyards.  If I get lucky and find a positraction 12-bolt, I'll be snatching that thing up.  But I ain't holding my breath.

If I do end up swapping in a late-model 4200 Vortec--which is sincerely the route I'd like to go--then I would likely have to upgrade that rear axle to handle the extra power.

It's pretty interesting.  There were 8 different factory engines available for the Camaro in the '68 model year:

L26                230cid                    140hp
L22                250cid                    160hp
LF7                327cid                    210hp
L30                327cid                     275hp
L48                350cid                     295hp
L35                396cid                     325hp
L78/79           396cid                     375hp
Z28                302cid                     290hp

You can see, my 250 is nearly at the bottom of the heap.  However, if I were to swap with a 2006-2009 LL8 (the 4200 Vortec), it's about 254 cubic inches, which is super close to mine.  But those engines are conservatively rated around 300 horsepower.  Which would put me performance-wise right between the 350 and big-block 396.  AND solidly drop me into the 25 to 30 mpg range, which no stock first-gen F-body can touch.  Not even the wheezy L26.

Getting 300 horsepower out of my L22 is certainly possible, but would end up being far more expensive and time consuming than the 4200 swap (at least by my estimates)  Plus, it would still never touch that fuel economy.

Want another funny bit of trivia?  A 2012 V-6 Toyota Camry is rated at 268 horsepower.  Not much down from the top of the heap 396 in '68.  Except that the 396 probably never got more than 8 or 10 miles per gallon.

More Floor

The floor repair goes well.  I have created much more work for myself than necessary, but I'll chalk it up to needed training.

Here's a couple pics of the progress.  You can see I still have much to do, but it's coming along.

Another part of this process is removing the old asphalt-based undercoating.  My intention is to recoat the underside with something prettier, more durable and easier to work with.  Removal of this stuff is a certifiable bitch.

Here you can see some of the mess.  I've sprayed a liberal layer of Easy Off cold oven cleaner, which does have some small effect on the undercoating.  Aircraft stripper works OK, but is far more expensive.  I've also resorted to heating a scraper with a propane torch and melting the stuff off.  You have to be careful doing that, because the undercoating is dramatically flammable.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Gear Oil Stink II

Well, the good news is that the mounting brackets for those 3rd Gen. brakes work perfectly.  I may have to do some spacing to accommodate the rotors, but so far so good.

Bad news is that there's no way that posi 3rd member will work.  Crap.

Gooder news is, even with the money wasted on that, I'm WAAAAAY ahead on those rear brakes!

Gear Oil Stink

Man, does gear oil ever stink!  And it WONT wash out.  Period.

And I happen to be covered from head to toe in it right this instant. . .

I made it out to the local Pick N Pull to do some minor operating on a 1984 Pontiac Trans Am.  Spent most of the morning there wrestling with my own idiocy and impatience.  Did it pay off?  That's the question.

According to Jeff Smith in the April Car Craft, it's a simple bolt-on procedure to retrofit 3rd Generation F-body rear disc brakes onto first-generation 10-Bolt rear ends.  My Camaro has the 10-Bolt rear, and as far as I can tell, those Trans Am brackets do indeed look like they'll fit.

Here's a pic of the brake calipers.  Very simple.  They might look ugly and rusty, but once I got them off and looked at them, the pistons and seals look brand new.  Some elbow grease and POR-15 will have these beauties looking brand stinking new.

Next is a picture of the bracket/backing plates.  While this doesn't match exactly what Jeff had in his article, but it's close enough for me. He preferred the smaller iron bracket.  I actually like this better, since the splashguard/backing plate is right there.  Should look pretty nice under that Camaro when they're all painted up.

I haven't picked up rotors or pads.  That will come later.  These should take a stock 11.5" rotor.  If this swap works out OK, it will effectively save me around $500.  So if that savings pans out, I'll spend the extra money on good slotted/drilled rotors all around, and a higher-end swap kit for the front.  I will also need to pick up an adjustable proportioning valve to dial in the rear brakes so I don't kill myself or the car.

Without adjustment, the rear brakes can lock up prematurely, which is exactly like yanking on the e-brake lever in your mom's car.  The rear end will immediately trade places with the front.  I will say that can be fun in the right context, but if you're not expecting it, you will die.

So, big picture thinking:  My thought is that with the poly bushings, a Hotchkis TVS suspension, and top-end disc brakes on all fours, this poor ol' six-banger Camaro will handle significantly better than a stock Z-28.  I guess we'll see. . .

The very last thing for today is kind of a long-shot I took while under that Trans Am.  It had a limited-slip differential in that 10-bolt rear end.  For you non-car people, a limited-slip differential makes sure power is evenly delivered to both rear wheels.  This effectively gives you more traction, and better control in hard cornering.

So, I pulled the limited-slip 3rd Member out of that Trans Am.  I'm going to see if there's a way it can go in my bone-stock 10-inch rear.  It's probably a waste of time, but it seems to me like it should be do-able.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

More Floor

No pics today--nothing worth taking a picture of.  I jacked up the car in the rotisserie about 6", and notched out one of the big overkill gussets.  This allows me to rotate the car quite a bit more--almost to vertical.  Due to the big fenders, I'd have to jack it up almost another foot to clear everything.  Which isn't really worth it, since I can get to pretty much everything as-is.

I also filled in the plug welds on the flange of my floor patch, under the car.  And I've started to fill that horrible gap left by my incredibly poor cutting skills.

If I really pushed it, I think I could get that bit of floor fairly well done tomorrow.  Gonna try.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Unrelated car rant (NSFW)

or Plug-in Hybrids can Suck My Ass

Apologies in advance.  If I don't take this chance to rant, I probably won't sleep tonight.

This has nothing to do with restorations, or Camaros.  It has more to do with Gen-Y douche-nozzles, marketing, and why it's good that we don't light people on fire anymore.  Or at least, we shouldn't light them on fire. . .

I'm reading the April Automobile, going through what's coming up in the wonderful world of cars nobody can afford.  Checking out the new stuff from Maserati, Ferrari, Lotus, Aston Martin, etc. . .  And in reading, I see three words that should never be used in conjunction with Maserati, Ferrari, Lotus and Aston Martin.

Plug-in Hybrid.

Oh hell no.

Let me just announce that I would very much like to hammer each of the CEO's of these car companies squarely in the balls with a tire iron.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, stop now.  Get back in your Prius and follow the rest of the lemmings off the cliff before someone has to euthanize you to protect the rest of the human race.

I'll pick on Ferrari, because I think of all the brands I've mentioned, they probably have the most recognizable name.  And probably the most obvious brand cachet.  Long ago, I read a line in Automobile that said anything from Italy should be red, fast and wicked.  I could name names, but let's keep it siple.

Take a note.  Italian.  Red.  Fast.  Wicked.

The words Plug-in hybrid should never, ever, ever coincide with words like Ferrari.  In fact, I'll go as far as saying that the first people who put a plug-in hybrid drivetrain in a Ferrari should be hung from a light pole with a rope made from their reusable shopping bags.  I think that whomever made the suggestion in the Ferrari board meeting should be dressed in a clown suit, tied to the bumper of a Traubant and dragged to death at its maximum speed.  Which has got to be around 25 miles per hour.

Same goes for the lemmings at Maserati, Lotus and Aston Martin.  Really, if you think that Prius cache meshes nicely with the Italian Supercar groove, then you're too stupid to be breathing our air.

Let me re-state it for these idiots:  Red.  Fast.  Wicked.  Italian supercars should be inaccessible.  They should be a little frightening and supremely exciting.

And if you think it's a "Good for Sales" kinda thing, think again.  Why the hell do you think Chevy is pulling back production of the Volt?  Hint:  Because NOBODY WANTS TO BUY THE PIECE OF SHIT.

It would sure be sad if people were saying that about any Ferrari in two or three years.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

There is no substitute for experience

Well, it's been an interesting day.  I've finished trimming and fitting the replacement floor panel, but it should be no surprise that I screwed it all up.

I have a really huge gap where there should be virtually no gap for the butt weld on the transmission hump.  1/8" I could live with, but this gap is much, much worse.

The problem is just my inexperience.  I should've run more sheet metal screws, and I should've taken my time.  Also, I probably need to modify my rotisserie so I can more easily flip the car completely over onto its back.

Shit.  There's a lot of things I could blame it on.  Fact is, I just don't know what I'm doing.  But that never stopped me before.  Won't now, either.

So, on with the fitting.  You can see above a dry fit of the panel.  I've already trimmed both ends, and notched the outboard flange to accomodate my lap welds.  The flange--for those of you who have absolutely no idea what I just said--is this long lip of metal that goes down along another lip running the length of the rocker under the car.  That's how the panel attaches.

The next thing to do is clamp down along that flange to get everything to fit flush.  I used a combination of vice-grips, C clamps and sheet metal screws to pull it all together.  It took some doing, too.  The holes you see are where my plug welds will go to secure the panel.

Here's a view of the sheet metal screw thing in the toeboard.

I then tack-welded the panel along the flange, the back and the toeboard.  I ran a few screws down the tranny hump, but not nearly enough.  And I wasn't nearly careful enough when I trimmed out the excess.  That's where my monster gap came from.

Here's a pic with the butt weld clamps on.

And on the back side.

The gap is horrendous.  Almost enough to make me want to scrap it and try another panel.  BUT, this is a learning experience, so I'll just buck up and learn how to fix my crass mistake.

I believe the best thing to do is get some nice 1/8" steel filler wire and start to fill the gap just a bit at a time.  Shouldn't be difficult, but it will take a lot more time.  But most of what I can see online, that's the best suggestion.  Besides scrapping the panel and starting over, that is.

Should be fine when I'm done.  As long as it's structurally sound, I have no worries about making it look good after welding/grinding.  I picked up some Duraglas filler, which will help hide some boo-boos, and add strength to the repairs.

So far, I'm fairly pleased with my progress.

Moving forward, the plan is going to be to move on to the quarter panels after I'm done with the floor.  I will do those one at a time.  The new quarter panels will be the most expensive part of the bodywork.  Possibly the most difficult, as well.  We'll see. . .