Thursday, December 31, 2015

From Corvette Rallyes to Aluminum Slotted Wheels

The Corvette's previous owner had the car repainted several years ago from the original factory Silver Metallic (paint code 13) to dark red, and he also had them spray the Rallye rims the same color.

Actually, they did not look bad, but they did not look right either, so I removed the wheels from the car, took off the chrome rings and center caps, and repainted them silver with Dupli-Color Perfect Match spray paint I purchased at Autozone.

I am aware that Rallyes were painted at the factory a specific shade of silver, but since NCRS standards do not necessarily apply to my 1976 Stingray, a general purpose GM silver fit the bill just fine.

I was pleased with the way they looked for several months, but at some point decided that they looked too "classic" for my taste, so I started looking for a set of period-correct Corvette (YJ8) slotted aluminum rims made by Kelsey-Hayes back in the day.

I did find a set for a reasonable price, about an hour's drive from my home in Central Florida. So I stopped by the bank on my way over and drove down to Titusville to buy them. The rims were in good shape so I paid the $300 asking price and brought them home with me.

My plan was to clean, sand, polish and paint them before having the tires mounted, and that's what I did. The project took me several days but the results were worth it.

Here's a pic of the back of one of the rims, after painting, showing their provenance.

This is what I started with, and my plan of action was as follows.

First, I washed the rim to get some of the loose gunk and dirt off of it, front and back. I then sprayed the wheel with Purple Power, allowed that to soak into the grime and then scrubbed the wheel, inside and out, with a scouring pad. I then rinsed it.

In order to clean the inside of the wheel and also prep it for paint, I started wet sanding the inside of the rim with 220-grit paper, followed by 400-grit which I also used for the face of the wheel. I continued sanding the front of the rim with 800-, 1200- and finished with 2000-grit paper.

Here are before and after pics of two rims. The one on the left has been washed and sanded with 220-grit paper, while the other one has been sanded and painted silver on the inside. In order to properly paint the slots, I chose to spray the wheels from behind. This way I did not have to mask them, which would've been a lot of work.

Of course, there was some overspray on the front side, but I did the painting between sanding the face of the wheel. I wet sanded up to 400, dried the rim, spray painted the inside and slots from behind, allowed it to cure for a while, then continued wet sanding which removed any overspray. This approach worked very well.

Since Corvette slotted rims up to the '78 or '79 model, I believe, had the slots painted black from the factory, it is important to sand those areas well in order to remove as many imperfections as possible. It is time-consuming but worth the effort.

By the way, I chose to use silver paint instead of black for the slots just because I wanted the rims to look a bit different. The design creates enough shadows that make the slots look almost black anyway, but wanted to note that since I deviated from the factory look a bit.

The rim on the left is clean and sanded with 400-grit paper and ready for paint. The one on the right has been sanded all the way to 3000 and is ready to be polished and have the center hub painted black since that is period correct for my 1976 Corvette.

I used Mothers Mag & Aluminum Polish which works very well. I also purchased new snap-in tire valves with chrome stem covers and caps, which help them blend better with the polished wheel.

After all the polishing was done, I carefully taped the center hub area, masked the rim and painted the centers black, which is the right look for a 1976 Corvette. I also bought a set of new chrome lug nuts, as well as new repro black/chrome center caps, again, correct for my model year.

When I had the tires mounted, I asked the shop to balance the wheel but use the adhesive-style weights and apply them to the inside of the rim. The old-style wheel weights that go on the outer lip look bad and I did not want those on my car.

And this is the finished product. The silver slots look black in this photo, and the factory Kelsey-Hayes rims look right at home on my '76 Corvette.

I purposely chose to leave the rims "natural." Some people have them cleared after polishing, but by doing so you are unable to polish them further, and my rims get brighter every time I give them a once-over with Mothers Mag & Aluminum Polish.

Thank you for following.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Edelbrock 1406 600 CFM Carburetor Installation

A few weeks ago, I had a new Edelbrock intake manifold installed. I also had the original Rochester Quadrajet rebuilt. Everything seemed okay at first glance, but the car had a flat spot upon acceleration, so that prompted me to bring the car back to the guy who had done most of the work on it, right after I bought it.

What we found upon closer inspection, was the fact that the other mechanic had first, failed to really tighten a lot of the bolts that hold the intake manifold in place. In addition to that, there were signs of coolant leaking from the thermostat housing, again, since the bolts had not been tightened properly.

So with those issues addressed, my mechanic proceeded to install the new Edelbrock carburetor.

Out with the old...

... in with the new!

Any original piece of equipment will start to develop issues after 40 years of use, and the carburetor is no exception. At that point, your options are, one: Have it professionally rebuilt, which costs anywhere from $400 to $450. Or two: Purchase a new carburetor.

I chose option number two and after some research, decided that an Edelbrock 1406 600 CFM carb would be the right choice for my Corvette.

Since I already had an Edelbrock Performer intake manifold, there was no need for an adapter plate. This saved me about an inch in height which is a good thing, since—at this time—my car still has the OEM hood. I plan to get an L-88-style aftermarket hood in the future, but for now, space under the hood is minimal.

My new carb came with a free Edelbrock 14" air cleaner which I was planning to use. But we immediately ran into a few issues. First, it would only fit if I removed the distributor shield. Not my favorite thing to do since I really like the way it looks under the hood. And second, it would need a spacer between the carb air horn and the air cleaner base so it would clear the fuel line.

At 3 inches, the air cleaner is not very tall, but adding the spacer would make closing the hood impossible, so another air cleaner would have to do.

I found another Edelbrock round air cleaner, also powder-coated black, but this one is only 10" round, and about 2" tall. This one should fit okay under the hood and clear the distributor shield. We may still need to put a spacer under it, but the lower profile will give us extra room.

Having said that, I also ordered a much smaller triangular air cleaner assembly, also by Edelbrock, which I was told, would also work for my car.

For $20 I was not going to argue. Besides, if it does not fit I can return it for a full refund, since I purchased everything from Summit Racing, and they stand behind what they sell.

But back to the carburetor installation. After Will made a new custom fuel line, we double checked everything and fired up the car to do some tuning.

He tinkered with it for a few minutes and asked me to shut it off since he thought we had a vacuum leak somewhere. So out came the smoke leak detector machine and sure enough, the brand new intake manifold was leaking! WTF?!?!

In less than a minute my shopping list became a little longer and the repair bill a lot more expensive. I would need new intake manifold gaskets plus the associated labor.

At that point I also decided that if I was going have him do all that work, I might as well bite the bullet (again) and order new Edelbrock Elite II valve covers and gaskets, since the cast aluminum ones I found on eBay a while back, are already starting to corrode like crazy, something that is bound to get worse as time goes by.

So I spent just shy of $200 on new parts. Have no idea what the labor will cost but I will find out soon enough.

It never fails that trying to save money can become an expensive proposition rather quickly, so if you're looking to replace a few parts on your ride, spend the extra few bucks and get brand-name parts. Doing so may save you money in the long run.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Replacing the Radiator and Radiator Core Support

Since I had purchased a bunch of parts for the '75 Corvette I was planning to restore (which I decided to sell), I ended up with a good selection of stuff that would fit my 1976 model. As a side note, you need to be very careful when you purchase parts from private sellers, since parts that fit one year may not fit newer or older C3 models. A reputable Corvette parts reseller will know this and help you get the right parts.

In this case, the 1975 Corvette radiator and core support would fit my early production '76 and that helped me save a bunch of money from having to purchase yet more parts.

Here is what the old radiator and support looked like. And even though the original core support was not that bad, repairing it would've probably cost more than buying a new one.

It is obvious that the previous owner had spray painted the core support and shroud using whatever paint he had handy. Not sure if he did this to help protect and/or beautify the area, or with hopes that a potential buyer (me, in this case) would think that the car was in great shape.

Actually, when I notice that someone has spray painted under the hood, I suspect some damage. In this case I crawled under the car and inspected the radiator core support best I could, and I could only see a small amount of rust. C3 Corvette core supports are notorious for being susceptible to rust. 

This is new radiator core support after it was installed along with the air conditioner condenser, which is mounted to the core in front of the radiator. I debated about having the new support powder coated, but timing these things can be tricky. In the end, I just decided to leave it as it came from Coffman since the car will always be garaged and driven only in fair weather.

And this is the original radiator core support. Not horrible, but definitely in need of some repairs if it was to be used again. As the close-up photos show, the bottom edge had rusted through. These parts can be repaired by welding new metal to them, but when rust is extensive, there's little good original metal to weld new pieces to. At the end of the day these projects are time consuming and can end up costing more than new replacement parts.

For illustration purposes, this is what a new radiator core support looks like.

I also had new rubber seals for the support, as well as new hoses.

This is the brand new radiator. It was not cheap, but sometimes getting new parts is the only option. Radiator repair shops are a rarity nowadays, and Corvette parts are expensive, no matter how you look at it.

Again, just make sure you buy the right parts for your car. If you have a car with automatic transmission and a/c, for example, the radiator has to be equipped accordingly, so the tranny cooling lines can be connected to it. If you have a manual tranny, like my '76 does, you can plug the inlet/outlet holes.

Alternatively, you can also use an aftermarket aluminum radiator, but make sure it will fit your application without the need of many (ideally, any) modifications.

Aluminum radiators offer many advantages over their copper counterparts. They are 30 to 40% lighter; they (usually) are 100% aluminum since they are aluminum brazed (this eliminates dissimilar metal issues); aluminum dissipates heat better; you can polish aluminum for show; and more. Having said that, if you want a factory look, then an aluminum radiator is not the way to go.

As I mentioned earlier, the radiator shroud had been spray painted black, and it looked ratty. So the first order of business was to wash it thoroughly, remove all the old paint, prep it properly and give it a fresh coat of paint.

However, once the old paint was removed, it revealed a very cool "marbleized" plastic finish, which I decided to keep. To that end, I sprayed several coats of clear after the part had been completely degreased. After the paint had cured, I applied the foam seals where it comes in contact with the support core.

I also took the time to detail a lot of the brackets and hardware. The time to do this is when the parts are off the car. I sprayed all brackets with Eastwood's Underhood Black paint since it has the correct sheen. The results speak for themselves.

And here's the radiator, core support, shroud and brackets installed. And while all this work was being done, my mechanic discovered that the fan clutch was leaking, so we ordered a new replacement radiator cooling fan from a local auto arts store.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Restoring the Wiper Bay Area — Part 2

Since there's no way to clean and detail the wiper bay area without removing the wiper arms and mechanism, I did that. Plus, I also felt that the right thing to do was to detail all components so everything would look fresh.

As the photos show, the wiper arms, actuator rods and everything else, was in a pretty sorry state.

The only way to make parts look new again, was to wash them thoroughly, then sand them to eliminate as many imperfections as possible, then paint them with the right finish.

The windshield washer hoses were either cleaned or replaced. This one in particular was a bear to thread back into place once the wiper arm was ready to be reassembled.

These are the windshield stop tabs, and whatever they used on them was caked on and beyond salvageable. The only solution was to scrape that gunk off, sand the metal tabs, then paint and coat the areas that touch the glass with Plastidip.

Here's one of the wiper arm posts and part of the mechanism after paint.

Other wiper system pieces. Before and after photos.

One of the windshield wiper arms after paint. I used Eastwood's Underhood Black since—I feel—has the right sheen.

The wiper motor had to be removed in order to detail the wiper bay area properly, and since it was as dirty as the rest of the related components, I gave it a good cleaning and polish.

Properly masking and taping the area is crucial, as you  DO NOT want any overspray, especially truck bedliner overspray.

First I left the hood surround lip exposed so I would not have to mask the same area twice. For this piece I used a semi-gloss black paint by SEM. The finish on the hood surround lip is smooth, so bedliner spray was out of the question.

By the way, a little bit of semi-gloss black overspray in the wiper trough was not a concern. As a matter of fact any overspray in that area was a bonus, as some of the recesses are hard to reach.

I applied several layers of semi-gloss black paint to the area and allowed it to cure for a few hours. Then I masked and taped the freshly-painted hood surround lip to prevent bedliner overspray.

Truck bedliner spray looks best when applied in several coats. I started by trying to get some of the stuff in hard-to-reach corners and then sprayed the visible areas. This approach worked well.

Out of all of the truck bedliner spray products I have tried, I like using Dupli-Color's paint since it dries fast and it gives a very nice and uniform textured finish. As a matter of fact, I've even used this product to restore camera-case-textured dashboard panels on a 1984 Trans Am, with outstanding results.

I used Dum Dum tape to make a waterproof gasket for the wiper motor where it contacts the wiper bay. I then secured it in place.

When all wiper arm pieces I chose to paint had cured, I started reassembling the system. As you can see, all parts look like new. I also lubricated all moving parts to ensure trouble-free operation.

Windshield washer clamps were ready for the garbage can, so I used some aftermarket ones I happened to have handy, after I sprayed them with under-hood paint.

And here's the finished product after everything was reassembled. A HUGE difference from what I started with. And, when everything was bolted down, I tested the system and everything works as intended by Chevrolet.

Of course after detailing this area, the firewall stood out like a sore thumb, so that area will also be addressed in the future.

I spent about two weeks completely restoring my '76 Corvette's windshield wiper bay area and windshield wiper system. I worked on and off as time allowed, and if I had to guesstimate the total number of hours spent on this project I would say it ranged from 50 to 70 hours total.

These are the kind of do-it-yourself (DIY) projects that most car owners can do while saving themselves a whole bunch of money. So, if your C3 Corvette's wiper trough looks horrible, I hope this article will provide enough information—as well as motivation—for you to tackle yours.