Friday, January 29, 2016

DeLand Car Cruise - Jan 29, 2016

This evening, I took my 76 to the local weekly car show for a couple of hours, and got a parking spot right next to a 75 convertible. In addition to that C3, I also saw another 75 at the show. It's kind of rare to see that many C3s in one place, so that was cool.

Here are a few photos of the cars. And I had to throw in one of a C4 that was also there.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

1976 Corvette Steering Column and the "Vega" Wheel
Part Three

One of the reasons I decided to venture out to the 2016 NCRS meet in Lakeland, in spite of questionable weather conditions, was the fact that I really wanted to find a few parts for the 78 steering column I bought with hopes to do a swap for my 76 Corvette.

I really lucked out as I found most of the pieces I was searching for, and for reasonable prices.

A couple of pieces, such as the telescoping lever, will have to be painted black and I am still debating whether I should go with a textured finish for the steering column, as I think it not only looks cool but it also would help hide small imperfections on some of the plastic column covers.

And speaking of telescoping levers (also referred to as telescope lock rings)... I've seen used ones offered on eBay, for example, upwards of $40 which is absurd when you can get new ones for around $25. You have to shop around if you want to avoid paying too much for parts. I paid $10 at the swap meet for mine.

I also found correct GM ignition and door lock key blanks for my car. Very happy about this since the ones that came with the car are ratty-looking aftermarket keys. And for $3 each, it was a no-brainer.

I have to say that I only bought one door lock blank since I am planning to switch to electric remote-operated locks, which would allow me to do away with the door locks completely. As a matter of fact, I am also planning to have those shaved when I install the power door locks.

You can find plenty of key blanks offered on eBay, of course, but make sure the ones you buy are coded correctly for your application. See the photo I shot of the model year/key code card the seller had at the Corvette swap meet.

Since the plastic steering column covers are scratched and marred by use (abuse may be a better word), I started to prep those pieces for paint.

After a good wet sanding, I applied glazing putty which I allowed to cure for a whole day.

I then sanded the whole assembly with 220-grit paper, applied some more touch-up putty, allowed that to cure for another day, then wet sanded.

I then set them aside to focus on other small repairs to the column systems.

The steering wheel lock pin spring was broken, for example, but my mechanic had a spare one that he gave me, so that saved a few bucks right there.
(GM part No. 7805827).

This is what was left of mine.

Installing the spring can be a bit tricky if you don't have some photos for reference. Luckily for me, my mechanic showed me how to install it so that saved me time and aggravation.

You start by hooking the short loop end of the spring to the lock pin, then, as you turn the spring toward the assembly, rotate the plastic gear a bit by hand so that the spring fits in the slot. You can then remove the small bolt at the bottom of the assembly (see photos below) and secure the loop by reinstalling and tightening the bolt. The spring will have some play even after you tighten the bolt, but that's normal.

I also decided to get rid of the headlight dimmer switch rod, since my plan is to use the turn signal switch from my 76, which does not have that capability. This feature became available on '77-and-later models.

By using my original turn signal assembly, I save a few bucks and don't have find and purchase the column-mounted switch. Besides, I don't mind using the foot-operated headlight dimmer switch, an accessory that appears to be a complete mystery to younger generations.

Removing the rod was a quick job—albeit not pretty—thanks to my Dremel tool.

For the record, I always try to save as many parts as I can since you never know when you'll need them, but in other cases you just have to pick your battles as I did here, since the rod was not coming off the column without taking it apart completely.

I also decided to remove the tilt mechanism retainer, spring and guide in order to clean some of the gunk that had accumulated. In order to do this, you need a large phillips screwdriver and a way to secure the steering column in place since you will need to apply quite a bit of force in order for the spring to compress, so you can rotate the retainer counter-clockwise so it comes off the assembly.

Once all three pieces were off, I cleaned them thoroughly, applied fresh grease and reassembled it, making sure the retainer was fully seated in place.

I also took the time to fix the threads of the upper steering shaft, since—from the looks of it—at some point someone beat the heck out of it, which made it impossible to screw in the nut and the telescoping lock knob screw.

Even though I have no deadline to get this project done, I am doing little repairs here and there whenever the mood strikes. This is especially important in order to become familiarized with the systems, as there are many.

When you look closely at the tilt & telescoping steering column, you realize that it took quite a bit of engineering by the folks at the Saginaw Steering Division. And while many components are year-specific, there are others that fit a wide range of years, so re-purposing parts from the original steering column from my car makes sense.

But in order to help determine which parts from my 76 column will fit the 78 unit, having a copy of the 1953-1982 Corvette Parts & Illustration Catalog is a huge help, so if you can borrow one, you'll save time and headaches.

Alternatively, you may be able to find a good, clean copy on eBay. It is a HUGE tome with thousands of illustrations and part numbers for every component used in the Corvette. Just make sure the book you get includes your model year.

Learning how to properly use the book can take some time, but there's plenty of information on the subject online and even from your local mechanic. But once you learn how to use it, it will become a valuable and trusted resource.

Here are a couple sample pages that I used to cross-reference parts I need for this project.

As you can see, the amount of information is quite large, and after you figure out which part you need more details on, for example which model years it fits, the required quantity, etc, you have to determine the "group" under which they are listed, then find the page for that "group" and find the right part for your car by name, then year.

It can be a little tricky at first, but it's not rocket science, as they say. And, frankly, your biggest problem may be searching for a particular component through a  cumbersome 1,500-plus page book.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for Part Four of this series.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

38th Annual NCRS Winter Regional — Lakeland, FL (Part 2)

Cold weather (at least by Florida standards), wind and even a little rain did little to motivate vendors and spectators alike to attend the last day of the NCRS 38th Annual Winter Regional at Linder Field, in Lakeland.

And the fact that the event is held at an airfield means that wind will quickly turn to gusts which had vendors scrambling to keep their canopies attached to the ground. It was not "sun n fun" if you get the pun.

So, upon arriving at Linder Airport, I quickly made my way to the NCRS judging hangar. Temperature at 9:20 a.m. was 42° according to my truck's thermometer, and the windchill and overcast probably put the actual temp in the mid to high 30s. Brr.

I still managed to take a lot of photos not only of C3s but other Corvette generations as well, since there were a LOT of cool cars there.


NCRS judges doing their thing. And from the looks of it, these guys leave no stone unturned. To the cars (and many owners I'm sure), it probably felt like a colonoscopy.

The ones that started it all. Check out the inline 6-cylinder!

A more refined C1, but with a V8 under the hood.

While looking at this '69 convertible, I realized that, at some point, Chevrolet also offered a headlamp washer option. I had no idea this was available back in the day, and I guess it was eventually discontinued. Will have to investigate this a bit more, as I find it interesting.

I've always been a fan of the C3 styling, but C2s (or mid-years, as they're also called), are beautiful cars in their own right. And the "holy grail" of them has to be the one-year-only "split window" Corvette.

I've never been a fan of the "sideways" radio. Not sure why but I guess it's always looked goofy to me. A gorgeous interior nonetheless.

C4s were well represented, and they truly are the cheapest way to get into the Corvette hobby. I saw a couple of nice examples offered for sale at the meet for under $4 grand! If someone wants to become a Corvette owner, you cannot do it for less money and still have a cool and drivable vehicle, which—if you maintain well—will at least keep its value and most-likely be a great investment as these cars become more desirable.

I considered buying a C4 for a while since, as newer cars, had advanced suspensions, electronics and fuel economy than earlier generations, not to mention far better ergonomics and road manners. So should a nice and reasonably priced C4 cross my path, who knows what may happen.

And here's a true survivor 1963 "split-window" Corvette Sting Ray.

According to the owners, they found this beauty on eBay, and they admitted that it was one of those "It sounds too good to be true" cases. So they had someone contact the seller and go verify the provenance of the car. Well, it was true, so they made an offer and bought it.

Their plan is to keep it as is since the paint (and patina) is 100% original. And I totally agree with that decision. If restored back to "new" condition, it would blend among a sea of other restored cars which would take away from its uniqueness.

I think it goes to show you that sometimes it's worth to take the time to investigate some online offerings, as you never know where the diamonds-in-the-rough are hiding. This one was in Wisconsin, I believe they said.

More Vettes undergoing NCRS judging scrutiny.

At first glance I admit that I wondered why this C4 was in the NCRS hangar. Never judge a book by its cover. It is a prototype!

And this one attracted a LOT of attention, and rightfully so. What a beauty!

This display was very cool and interesting, too.

Eventually I decided to venture outside, only to be greeted by cold gray skies and windy conditions. The light drizzle only added insult to injury.

I first walked through the "cars for sale" area, where there were plenty of Corvettes of every generation being offered to the public.

Since it was really cold I wimped out and walked into a vendor's tent to seek refuge from the weather. Glad I did since these guys manufacture new frames for older cars but with modern suspensions and powerplants.

After a few minutes I ventured out again toward the Wonderful World of Corvettes show, which had a pretty decent turnout in spite of the dreary weather conditions.

I failed to ask who had these Vettes on display, but they were beautiful and when started, sounded great.

So that's my "report" from the 38th Annual NCRS Winter Regional meet in Lakeland, Florida.  I also heard rumors through one of the Corvette forums that, apparently, plans are being made to bring the event back to Old Town (Kissimmee, FL). This is all unconfirmed, of course, but I personally think that would be a smart move.

Don't get me wrong. The Sun n Fun venue is a fine one... for a fly-in.

When I was into flying and building an experimental Thorp T-18, then a Fly Baby single-place low-wing aircraft, I would go to the fly-in every year and loved it. But for a car show I think that Old Town is a far better choice for many reasons; its central location for one, plus all the nearby hotels and restaurants and other entertainment the whole family can enjoy.

So my vote is with bringing the NCRS Winter Regional back to Old Town! Not that anyone has asked me or cares. lol.

Thanks for reading.