About a month ago I posted a list of stuck-points on the project – fortunately since then, with a lot of effort and tool purchases, progress has been made! Have put more time into the car this past month, than in any month so far. First, an update on each of the old sticking points-
Power steering leakage
New pump was purchased and super-carefully installed. All lines cinched up, and no leaks after a couple weeks, yay! Still have to see how it holds up under the pressure of real use with the pump cranking away, but so far so good.
Brake line fitting leakage
This was due to an incorrect flex line in the rear – correct part ordered and installed, and the brakes were bled, no leaks! My brake bleeding assistant, who’s never driven a manual car, had some trouble with my instructions to “push the pedal in the middle” – since the throttle pedal was sunken to the floor, the clutch appeared in the middle of the e-brake, clutch, and brake pedals. I’m going from corner to corner, wondering why fluid is barely eking out as I hear her pumping away! 🙂 A little revised instruction and it’s good to go.
Still had some air after a couple passes, at which point I realized the multi-piston Wilwoods need to be bled at the top of both caliper halves (inner and outer) to get all the air out. Last few bubbles gone and the brake pedal feels very firm inside.
This was a rather labor intensive process. In typical easier-said-than-done fashion they were cut down 2.25″ in length; bushings were trimmed or hogged out to fit appropriate sleeves for mount bolts; the front spring eyes were flipped and ground for clearance; initially the rears were flipped also but it looked like clearance would be an even bigger problem, so they were left upright, but still got some grinding.
This has an ultra-scientific “one to two finger gap” in the rear. Added about 65 lbs. of fuel (more on that later) which only brought it down about 1/8″. Only weight left to go in is the headliner and door glass, so this is where it’ll be for now. It’s not likely this spring rate will be the one I wish to keep forever, so for the next pair of springs, it should be easy enough to request an additional ride height decrease, in addition to the spring length decrease. Bushing work will swap over.
Oh, and in the picture above, the rear wheel has 3/4″ of spacer. There’s room to go inboard or outboard bit if needed, but this provided a more athletic appearing stance, while still providing for tons of wheelwell clearance in all directions. At this setting rear track width is 70.75″, which still, isn’t *that* wide. It’s about 4″ wider than my 240sx was, and about 7″ narrower than the Viper.
Road Draft Tube
Have to thank my buddy John Coffey for talking me through this one. Tried several different things and took a long time with this, and ultimately found a solution. This item was holding up permanent installation for a lot of simple things in the engine bay, so once it was out of the way a lots fell quickly into place – carburetor, fuel lines, distributor, throttle and choke linkages, etc. The tube coming off the road draft vent hole is the black one fuzzily visible in the passenger side carb photo below-
You may note, the stock-style valve covers. These are actually the third set of valve covers I have for this thing – the first set didn’t fit the bolt pattern (they’re for an even older small block) and the second set were a bit bigger and made of thicker material. They *look* nice and original, but caused all kinds of interference problems with things like the fuel line and the bracket for the power brake booster vacuum line, visible above. While in general I’m not a fan of extra chrome, these are at least very lightweight, and totally stock.
Coolant Temp Sensor Port
This problem begat a bevy of tool purchases. After nothing could convince the old plug to come out, began drilling with ever-larger holes. The largest thing I had on hand for going through metal was 3/8″ (bits and chucks), so it was time for some upgraded hardware. Now have a new 1/2″ chuck drill, and an array of drill bits up to 1″ in size.
Also bought a 1/2″ NPT tap to repair the threads, and a special 45/64″ bit as the final pass before using the tap. After using the 45/64″ bit, all that was left of the plug was like foil and I could pull it out with needle-nose pliers.
Hooray! Coolant temp sensor in its appropriate location!
Also visible in this pic, is the new oil pressure sensor. This is a 1/8″ NPT sensor occupying a small port in the block previously filled with a small square plug. This too necessitated some tool purchases since it was a 7mm square plug, so none of my 6-point sockets would fit it, and the only way to fit a wrench on it, would be to pull off the water pump; no thanks. Ended up buying one of these universal socket things, advertised to work on 1/4″ – 3/4″ bolt heads of all shapes and sizes. After some monkeying, it got a grip on the thing and got it out. The tool earned its keep in that one action!
Perhaps apparent from the way the wires for the oil pressure sensor have been run, am making a big effort to keep the wiring tidy and professional in the car. Bought a ton of heat shrink tubing and overlay sheathing, in an attempt to keep everything clean, bundled, and protected.
No progress on here from last time. The passenger vent window is just about ready to go in, been focused on what’s needed to get it running.
Lots of other progress has been made in addition to getting the above accomplished.
First Fuel Purchase
One of the simpler ones – the fuel line installation was completed, so it made sense to get some gas. We happen to have a very neat retro gas station just a few miles from the house, that sells all sorts of good gas right at the pump, and comes complete with a smiling young man offering to clean your windows or check your oil. It’s mostly frequented by the well-to-do’ers of RSF, topping off their Range Rovers and exotic sports cars. I felt out of place with two crummy 5 gallon plastic jugs in the pickup, but the Camaro will look right at home there.
Oh, and this is the only station I’ve bought gas in, in the last 10 years, where you don’t have to pre-pay. Got a lucky click-off of the pump, no coins! Hopefully a sign of good ProSolo reaction times to come. 🙂
This is another that seems like a no-brainer…which of course wasn’t.
Had the body shop install the wiper motor and attach to the wiper arms at the body shop, as doing so requires having the cowl panel off, and installation or removal of a body panel, is a big opportunity to scratch up the paint on said panel.
Unfortunately the wiper arms were not “clocked” to the motor correctly, causing the wiper blade to want to swing down initially, instead of up. So off came the cowl panel, some time spent futzing with the mechanism orientation, but ultimately, the wipers made it in, and I managed to get the cowl back on without messing anything up too badly.
The car had no wipers when I got it, now it has working ones, ha!
Pedals and Header-back Exhaust
The car has four functional pedals at last! Well, the gas pedal may not make it go yet, but it does open the throttle, now that the road draft tube shenanigans were handled.
Brakes were made ok with the bleeding a little while back, and the clutch was okay, as the pressure plate provides most of the springing, but the complementary clutch return spring that keeps the pedal up against the stop, has also been installed.
The parking brake pedal was the last to be made functional. The Wilwood rear disc brake setup on the car has a complete functional parking brake, but comes without a means of adapting it to the factory cable system. Fortunately the solution was pretty simple, with a pair of Lokar “Explorer style” clevises, drilled out to accept the factory parking brake cable. The entire parking brake system is not entirely new, from the rubber of the pedal pad, to the drum lining at each rear wheel.
As you can tell from the second picture, at this point, the exhaust ends at the mufflers. When I get the car to an exhaust shop, will have to see what can be done to extend the exit either to the traditional location, or out the sides. The panhard rod in the rear suspension complicates things.
They still aren’t right. Rear is too high, as discussed above. I’ve raised the front “2 turns” (haven’t done the math to figure how that equates to inches), but it probably needs to come up more.
This picture was taken a few days ago, before fuel and coolant were added, so both front and rear have since come down a little bit.
You’d think moving the car around a garage floor on dollies like this would be easy – nope, big effort required!
Before trying to drive it anywhere, I’ll probably raise the front another 2 turns.
The Vintage mags with 27+” tall tires will fill the wheelwells better than the Jongbloeds and AD08 rubber. The shorter /35 series front tire vs. the /40 series on the rear, exaggerates the ride height difference.
No problem turning to full lock, even at this ride height-
Pic inside of the front suspension with the wheel turned- contact point at extreme bump, is the lower control arm to the factory bump stop bracket, welded on the frame. At this ride height, it has about 1.25-1.5″ of travel there, equating to about 2″ of travel out at the tire.
Oh, and a funny one-
The family car had to go in for service (Infiniti is paranoid after the Toyota/Lexus unintended acceleration debacle, and is issuing recalls on the new JX35 like crazy. The car needed 5 recalls done, which necessitated an overnight stay) – and since they were busy and out of branded loaners, we got a crummy rental – the Chevy Sonic. The Sonic is one of these economical small cars – not micro like the Smart or Scion IQ, but subcompact like the Toyota Yaris, Mazda 2, or Honda Fit. When my Tundra was serviced I got a Yaris SE loaner, which was actually decent, but this Sonic LT was crap! Anyway, it got to park next to the Camaro one night.
What amazed me was how TALL the Sonic is! Check out this picture-
It only looks a few inches taller than the Camaro…until we see the Camaro is sitting on 5″ tall dollies! Will have to measure the Camaro once it’s back on the ground, but I’m pretty sure its roofline is around 48″, the Sonic (and lots of other cars like it) have rooflines about 60″. Wow.
Ok, so I put it in the trunk, not very exciting. This is an Odyessy PC680, common in the aftermarket. It’s 13-14lbs., vs the 35+ of the stock battery, hanging way out past the nose. Here’s it’s mounted fairly high, but more or less at the rear axle centerline.
Have more thoughts on general battery placement, will have to share another time.
This battery was bought to get the car going (figuratively, not literally) – since in the beginning it is likely to get cranked a lot without much chance to charge normally, and this should stand up ok to that use. The *real* battery I plan on using is the C680 XS Power battery, which is only about 4 lbs., and is the same form factor as the PC680, meaning it will fit in that mount.
The insides of the car received some attention, mostly in the instrumentation area.
Steering was a bit out of whack, had to purchase a puller to get it all apart and re-clocked correctly, but it could at least be buttoned up-
The wrap will come off soon! Still getting my hands dirty doing stuff, just not as bad as before.
Note the cover plate over the center of the dash – bare as a no-option car can be.
Couple other things to see – the switch at bottom left, and of course the DASH2 dash. The switch will be an independent control of power for the DL1 and DASH2. The idea is, I can keep it on, to help let the DL1 keep GPS lock between runs, or any other time I want to have the engine off but instrumentation on. Modern cars tend to have as their key positions, Off -> Accessory -> Ignition -> Run. This car has Off -> Accessory + Ignition -> Run. Want to be able to keep some of the electronics going, without all of it going.
Speaking of the DL1, it got its own custom bracket, just below the dash, to the right of the steering column.
That silly bracket took a ton of time to measure and bend up, and I’m still not totally happy with how it ended up, as I had to change its position slightly to avoid having to use a serial extender between the DASH2 and the DL1.
With this configuration, the DL1 will be recording information from sensors (like coolant temp, RPM, and oil pressure) in addition to the things it can figure out on its own – speed and accelerations – and present this data to the DASH2, as configured, over an RS232 serial connection. This is handy, because you can’t really look at gauges while autocrossing. You might have a chance to look at the tach when doing an initial 1-2 shift, but that’s about it really. On the track you can take a glance for a second or so while on a straightaway, to ensure systems are still healthy, possibly even changing your approach if you see oil temps climbing, or something like that. In autocross you go out and hope the car makes it through the run without self-destructing. If you are having momentary drops of oil pressure, there’s no way you’ll see it, without some kind of alarm light programmed in, but that can be tricky, since 20psi might be OK at idle but death at 6k RPM. With the data acquisition, you’re watching the gauges 100 times per second, and if there are any concerning fluctuations, they can be correlated to other events, like hard right-handers following a braking zone, for instance.
In this photo it isn’t yet talking to the DL1, so it only knows to output fuel level, which it will get from the main vehicle harness, and will not be datalogged. Common Camaro Lore dictates one most always autocross a first or second gen Camaro with a completely full gas tank. I’m hoping that’s not actually the case, will find out soon enough.
The DASH2 is mounted to the steering column via a custom bracket I made. When I envisioned the bracket, it had to be carbon fiber, and making it so, took extra time. In trying to get a photo of it tonight, I now realize now silly that probably was, you can only really see it when looking down through the windshield. Here it is, from roughly the middle of the car up against the windshield, looking back and left-
Even if the aesthetics aren’t perfect, pretty happy with how it turned out functionally. The size and positioning of the bracket and DASH2 unit, allow the wheel its full range of tilt adjustment, without bind or interference. Here it is fully tilted up-
With the steering wheel in a normal position, eye level is slightly above the unit, which is supposed to be optimal for its viewing.
Race-Technology was very supportive in sending me out a loaner so I could get the car fired up, while they send my bricked unit back to the UK for repairs. Thanks Al Seim and R-T USA!
Not very exciting, was able to get a good length PS belt on the second try, looks like I’ll need a third attempt to get an alternator/fan belt of the right length, this one is a bit too long-
Looks like I may need to spend some time shimming the PS and water pump pulleys to get perfect alignment. Like so many things, you think belts will be a 5 minute deal, and it turns into hours… 🙂
The plan for the moment is to get it running, and solid enough to not fall apart or puke its fluids out everywhere on a short drive. Want to make sure it builds oil pressure by free-cranking it with the plugs out, before they go in and I try to fire it. It *should* be fine as it ran great on the engine dyno, but that was over 2 years ago, and it has since received a new oil pan.
It’ll need to go to an interior shop to get the headliner put in (it’s a least a 2-person, if not 3-person job on these cars), then to an exhaust shop (have some tweaks to the Magnaflow system I need/want), and to ProParts USA for some shocks. I want to have the car ready for the San Diego National Tour, which is a short three months away!
While I’m still a ways away from driving and racing this thing, been making tweaks along the way.
The new Hurst Competiton Plus shifter for the M21 Muncie came with its standard shift handle, which fits well and offers relatively short throws with its compact length. One thing I could tell I didn’t like though, was how far away it sits from the steering wheel-
It is a ways to the right, further forward, and way below the height of the steering wheel. While there isn’t that much shifting in Solo, it is done from time to time, and having to reach that far, wasn’t something I wanted to do. A race car trend you see these days (at least in classes where steering-wheel paddle shifters are not allowed), is big tall shifters, so the driver doesn’t have to reach as far to shift, letting them keep more hands on the wheel. This Porsche is a good example:
Hurst sells several different handles for their shifter, for good fitment into all the different cars they sell shifters for – older and new musclecars, sports cars, even pickup trucks.
Supplied shifter stick on the right, round 2 shifter on the left. The new one places the shift knob 2″ higher up, about 1″ further back, and though it’s hard to see from the picture in this plane, about 1.5″ more to the left, closer to the driver. This is the shifter stick sold for Jeeps!
This sort of swap is a good quiet weeknight job while everyone’s asleep. Very happy with the result!
Another project that was a bunch more work than anticipated!
Driver’s seat I’ve had sitting on a shelf for a long time now. In the early days of part searching, came across my favorite autocross seat for sale – the Cobra Suzuka Technology.
It’s my favorite, because the Suzuka design offers superb lateral support, without all the big head-restricting elements found in dedicated roadrace seats. I ran a Suzuka in my 240sx and loved it. You can also pull out the bottom seat cushion to get even lower, which is great on course, then put it back in for extra comfort on the drive home.
This is the fancier “Technology” version, that they only make to order. I found it second-hand, but brand new and never installed, from an NSX owner. The Technology version features carbon-fiber construction vs. Kevlar, has more durable wearing materials, and uses the same sort of fancy shape-remembering foam used in F1 cars. A cool seat!
The seat mounts took a couple revisions. The bottom of this seat is a bit wider than most, so the popular brand Wedge Engineering said they couldn’t make brackets for it, after a couple calls. Instead, I bought a pair of Sparco’s universal sliders and fabbed the mounts myself. The seat is as low as it can get, while still allowing the slider lever mechanism to lift enough to let the seat move.
Hard to tell if it’s low enough, with the car still up in the air on jackstands. If not, I’ll have to forego the sliders, and attach it in a fixed position. I’m really not that tall (~5’7″) but like to sit lower and a bit further back while autocrossing than most people my height.
One advantage of going to fixed position for the driver’s seat, would be the possibility of the seat mount stiffening the car up a bit. For the passenger side I went with a classic Kirkey seat, again repeating what I did in the 240sx.
The Kirkey is great for a few reasons. It is easy to mount – basically pick your spots, drill some holes, and you’re done. It works great as a bucket for carrying things to/from events – pretty much every tire sprayer I’ve ever used leaks, but with it sitting in the passenger seat, the leak is contained in the seat itself, which is easy to dry out by removing the cover. Since it is aluminum, should be easy to attach a camera mount to when that time comes. It’s quite light at a bit over 16 pounds with cover. And lastly, it’s cheap!
In mounting, tied the beefy angle aluminum into the four factory mount points, in addition to a couple other secure spots. In ST our seat and mount combinations have to weigh at least 25 pounds, so this is a place where adding 9-10 pounds of bracing doesn’t come at any net weight cost the way “steelitis” items like the subframe connectors do.
This thing isn’t going anywhere in an incident! Have some future plans to add additional bracing for the “seat” but this is good enough for now.
Was recently reminded of a little passage from the book that seeded the idea for this project. Even though it’s not from the Camaro chapter but the Javelin one, it describes well the phase of the project I’m in at present:
We started our first Javelin as a stripped chassis from the factory. We needed hundreds of other stock parts , though, such as hinges and brackets and linkages and thing, which are really quite a problem to order individually. For some reason American Motors didn’t want us to strip them off another complete car as they were needed. After we had installed the roll cage and widened the fenders we had to have some pars to continue with, and none we coming. I was getting desperate, so I called the factory and said, “Look, you’ve got to give us a car to take odds and ends out of. We have to have parts now! So they agreed to loan us a car, on the condition that we would rebuild it as the parts we ordered arrived. I was promising anything at that point. We picked up a running Javelin at a dealership and it got stripped … and stripped … and stripped … until it was virtually useless.
By the time we had the racer running the stripper was a pile of junk sitting in the corner.
Similarly, at this stage of the project, the Camaro is in needs of lots of odds & ends. The “kits” you can buy, to do things like the interior, don’t include several parts they assume you’re keeping. Things that aren’t really wear parts, but that tend to get funky with 45 years of age. Don’t want anything funky on this bird so everything is getting replaced or spruced up.
Instead of being able to turn to a fully-loaded “parts car” next door (which I could for a while when I owned two 240sx’s), I have to get online and order the part. Work on a particular oart of the car proceeds, gets stuck because of a missing part, so I move to something else, work until stuck at a missing part, and when the day is done, put together an order for all the missing parts plus anything else I can think may be needed. Not the most efficient method of proceeding.
Despite this, the interior is progressing. Still waiting on the driver door window actuator mechanism to show up from backorder. Several of the other window components need to be thoroughly cleaned and either painted or powdercoated. Looking for replacement vent windows – earlier it appeared these were stocked by online retailers for a reasonable price, but it turned out not be the case…so now I’m stuck looking for the main chrome pieces to the vent windows.
Carpet and under-dash pad are in. Boo hoo hoo, weight from sound deadening. At least it’s low I guess. New painted factory gauge cluster is in, wiring is about done.
This car will be getting the full DL1 treatment, as the 240sx did. Also have the Chasecam camera fully wired mounted up where the dome light goes. So many car videos are from bad positions – on the dash, roof, or on the front bumper. While better than nothing, these videos are only about 10% as useful as a video showing the driver’s inputs. A vantage point that shows the road ahead in addition to the steering inputs from the driver is the best, it really gives you the right kind of perspective to understand what’s going on, and how the car is behaving. Dome light should be a good spot in this car.
The back seats have been upholstered and are ready to go in, but they can’t until the rear quarter windows have been fully installed, and I’m waiting on one sneaky trim piece to complete that step. Then onto the front windows, front door panels, headliner, and remaining trim.
Making some slow progress on the car of late. Fuel tank is in, wheel dimensions are all measured out (wheel/tire story to come later), and the wiring is about done.
Here’s the interior as of today-
Obviously will fix the Momo center cap rotation before all is done. 🙂
Glove box is in, blanking panel for the center is ready. Hole for shifter is cut. You can see the carpet hanging in the back left, it needs to stretch out a bit before it can go in.
Still have much to do here. Have all new window mechanisms to install, can be arduous to get everything aligned. Gauges to do too, have a fun surprise in store there. Haven’t really liked any of the gauge setups I’ve seen in these cars thus far. Mine wlll be different, if nothing else…
Takes just a couple boxes, but here it is – just about everything needed for the interior. Only pieces not here are the rear seat frames which I kept (and powdercoated) and the front seats, which will be lightweight race seats.
Unboxed everything tonight, parts seem of good quality, most are even GM authorized as official replacement parts.
The bummer – UPS says the packages weighed a combined 133 pounds! Ugg. Oh well, that’s just one of the differences between an STX and CP car.