Friday, July 29, 2016

Badass Corvettes

Unsure as to why classic race Corvettes were usually convertibles with a hardtop, but I just love that look. Another nice detail is the LeMans-style gas cap.

Pics of race or just badass Corvettes I find during my Internet travels.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

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

I've been dragging my feet and—even though the 1978 OEM column I rebuilt has been done for a while—avoiding going through with the actual swap. But now that my car's motor is being rebuilt and I am done detailing the firewall and engine bay, the perfect time to start the swap has presented itself.

I started by reading one of the excellent Corvette steering column tutorials published by Jim Shea, which provided step-by-step instructions that allowed me to remove my car's column all by myself, in approximately an hour-and-a-half. It is safe to say that, with the engine in the car, the process would've taken at least an additional hour.


The first thing I did was to remove the steering wheel and the plastic column cover under the dash. I also loosened the two bolts that secure the column to the dash, but as Shea recommends, I left everything in place.

I then removed the two nuts that secure the lower column plate to the firewall, but first I disconnected the key-release lever, which I will eliminate since the 1978 column I will be using has its own key-release mechanism.

The only drawback is that this will also eliminate the safety feature that the car has to be in reverse for the key to be removed. But sometimes you just have to compromise.

Above: Arrow points to reverse gear/key-release safety mechanism, which I eliminated.
The carriage bolt on the plate right above the lever can be removed, and I will replace it
with a stainless steel bolt I purchased at ACE Hardware.

Above: View of the lower column plate from the inside. Arrows indicate bolt openings
that secure the plates to the firewall. The one on the right side is a carriage bolt that I
removed and will replace. The one on the left is spot welded to the plate.

Next, I removed the two nuts and lock washers that connect the steering gear coupling to the column flange.

I then removed the a/c crossover duct under the steering column, removed the two vertical bolts and allowed the column to rest on the seat. Note that the a/c duct is secured by one sheetmetal screw that also needs to come out.

As a side comment, the observant reader will also notice a Bubba electrical connector courtesy of one of the previous owners. I will have to do a little bit of detective work to determine the purpose of that ground, which I am thinking must have been related to the aftermarket alarm system the second owner of the car installed.

Above: This sheet metal screw (arrow)  has to come off to remove the crossover duct.

Once the steering column is loose, you can disconnect the electrical connectors from the column ignition switch. I had a hard time getting them to come off and wasted about 10 minutes on them until they finally released.

I also disconnected the turn signal “harmonica” connector from the harness since my rebuilt column has its own, of course.

At this point the column can be taken out, but it takes a little bit of trial and error to get it free from the car, as you have to turn it in order to clear the brake pedal while trying to get the steering gear coupling flange through the firewall.

Patience is definitely required for this job, as you don't want to start yanking on things and risk breaking or damaging something.

In order to compare the '76 to the '78 steering column, I laid them side-by-side, and you can see how the newer unit is about 2 inches shorter, which will make a huge difference and improvement as far as ergonomics are concerned.

I will also have the firewall-side, lower column plate powdercoated, for both looks and durability.

Thanks for following this series and stay tuned for Part Ten, which will be the final installment of my C3 Corvette steering column swap articles.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Powdercoating by Topp Coat in Orange City, Florida

You never know for sure what results you'll get from a new shop, whether it's bodywork, paint or—as in this case—powder coating.

Well, the guys at Topp Coat in Orange City, Florida, did an incredible job with the parts I wanted done. They turned out so nice and glossy, they really look like wet paint.

The only way to show how great they look is through photos, even though it is hard to really capture the full effect of the finish, but at least you'll get an idea.

I am really tempted to have them redo my air cleaner assembly, which I had powder coated a while ago by another shop, and even though it looks fine, it pales in comparison to the results these guys deliver.

So, if you need powder coating for your project, I cannot recommend Topp Coat enough.

Here's their contact information:

Topp Coat Powdercoating & Hydroprinting
970 Shadick Drive
Suite 3
Orange City, FL 32763

Phone: 321-307-TOPP (8677)

John, 786-414-4506
Kevyn, 321-316-9901

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

On Stingray Pond

My grandma used to say, "God protect me from my friends, for I know who my enemies are." And it's obvious that the guy who let his "bud" borrow this 1971 Corvette Stingray—who ended up driving it into a marsh—could've used some of that advise.

Further reading: GM Authority and Corvette Blogger.

Needless to say, these type of accidents are not funny, and (unfortunately) not limited to C3 Corvettes.

It is different when you order someone to drive their pride and joy into a body of water.

Warning: This video is painful to watch.

Thank you for following my blog.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Detailing Misc. Parts and Hardware

Mark from Sunrise Automotive called me early this morning to ask me if I could swing by the shop to pick up some hardware that, he felt, could use a good cleaning.

Well, "some hardware" tuned out to be bags upon bags of the original engine and engine accessory nuts, washers and bolts. I have to say that they did a beautiful job of tagging everything which speaks volumes in my book, as to how particular they are, and I am very pleased to see that.

But cleaning greasy and dirty hardware is not a fun job. Besides, after four decades and 40k-plus miles on them, age and stress takes its toll, so I am going to clean and paint a few items, but when it comes to nuts, bolts and washers, I plan to replace as many as possible with Grade 8 hardware.

My first Grade 8 hardware buying trip to ACE Hardware, resulted in 79 pieces totaling a whopping $49.73.

Yes, the stuff is not cheap and many will argue that you can get by with Grade 5 nuts and bolts. And they may be right, but I say, "Why take chances?"

Without going into a discussion of the tensile properties of Grade 5 vs. Grade 8 hardware, for a few more dollars, my money as well my confidence, is on the higher number. Besides, the anodized gold finish of Grade 8 hardware looks so very nice.

From looking at the many bags left on my workbench, I am guesstimating that the total investment in Grade 8 hardware will be in the $100 to $120 range. Again, not cheap, and some may feel that cleaning the original pieces would've been enough.

But from experience I can tell you that even though a thorough degreasing and detailing would've saved me 100 bucks, the amount of time required to do a couple hundred pieces would've required a couple of days, if not longer, and I much rather spend that time doing more productive tasks.

Now mind you, some hardware is unique to the Corvette (or GM, for that matter), so you will not find everything, Case in point are a couple of the exhaust manifold studs. So I will hand-clean a few items, which is not a big deal.

I did a quick search online for a bolt kit for the exhaust manifolds, but I did not want to wait for a week for the hardware to arrive, at a cost of $42 for the set, so I just purchased the Grade 8 bolts I was able to find.

But I did purchase a set of exhaust manifold bolt locks since the original ones had succumbed to rust.

One part that I had to detail by hand was the clutch Z-bar, or clutch crossbar. This thing could've used a good powdercoating, but it is full of grease so I decided to give it a good cleaning and sanding, followed by a couple of coats of chassis paint, instead.

Here's the crossbar after cleaning and sanding.

And here's the finished product.

I also found a 1963-1981 Corvette clutch cross shaft rebuild kit for $20 on eBay. The kit includes new spring, pivot stud nylon seats, stud-to-frame nut, and felt seal, so the car's original Z-bar will be in like-new condition.

When it comes to a restoration, sometimes you have to choose not to cut any corners, as tempting as that may be. You just have to bite the bullet and pay the piper if you want to do the whole dance. So next time someone looks under the hood or under the car, they'll know that you did it right.

Thanks for following.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Powder and Ceramic Coating

Small details make a huge difference when it comes down to detailing anything, and the motor is no exception. So today I stopped by Sunrise Automotive to pick up a few pieces that will be powdercoated gloss black by Topp Coat Powder Coating right here in Orange City, FL.

This morning I did a quick search for powder coating services near my home, and lo and behold, this shop is less than two miles from my house.

So I dropped off twelve pieces, including pulleys and brackets, which should be done in about a week. John, one of the shop owners, sent me a "before" photo of the parts inventory, which was great since I forgot to snap a few beforehand.

Unfortunately I did not know that Topp Coat also offered ceramic coating, otherwise I would've let them take care of the exhaust manifolds at the same time. Anyway, those are going to be done by Performance Kote of Orlando.

For the exhaust manifolds I chose a cast finish instead of the traditional shiny coating, which looks great on headers but not so much for OEM exhaust manifolds, in my opinion.

We'll see if the cast ceramic finish was the right choice in about a week. But needless to say, anything will be far better than the oxidized look.

And even though I was able to chase the stud threads, they still look horrible and ready to be replaced, so I ordered a new set of exhaust studs and brass bolts from Corvette Central. I am going to let Mark at Sunrise Automotive deal with removing the old ones since they have "welded" themselves to the manifolds, and heating them with a torch is the only way to get them to come off.

Almost as an afterthought, I realized that the hood locks would also benefit from powder coating, so I took them apart and will also get them coated gloss black. The springs I will paint gold for a little contrast and definition, but that's it as far as color under the hood.

By the way, the chipped paint is courtesy of the paint shop which did not have the right tools or know-how, to adjust the hood properly after they painted the front of my car. A little patience and care goes a long way to prevent marring.

After disassembly, I filed the bottom lock-nut  to eliminate as many of the deep scratches it ended up with. The top plate is stainless steel so I sanded and polished it, and the same goes for the alignment pins. I will post photos of the finished product once it's done.

Even though some of these parts show their age and use, they clean fairly  well and look a lot better after a thorough cleaning and polishing, so there was no need to replace them.

And I will make sure the locks are aligned properly before tightening, and will use a brass drift punch instead of Channellock® pliers, to lock them in place.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Firewall and Engine Bay Detailing | Part 5

Detailing and refinishing the firewall and inner fenders is a very tedious job, but I finally got to the point where every wire and hose was masked with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Using tape and paper would take forever, so the aluminum foil approach is the best.

I used a plastic dropcloth I purchased at ACE Hardware, and it worked great for protecting the car's finish. The bath towels I used to protect the fenders, served double duty to cover the wiper bay, and since I purchased them for the garage, a little overspray is no big deal.

I sprayed a base coat of SEM Landau Black to ensure there was good coverage in case I missed any spots when applying the bedliner spray.

Not sure how many coats I sprayed, but I rather use too much rather than not enough. So I am confident I got decent coverage. When the bed liner spray was dry enough, I finished the painting by applying a couple of coats of Eastwood's Underhood Black, which has a beautiful factory sheen.

I taped the brake booster since I wanted a different finish on it.

Instead of spraying bedliner, I decided—at the last minute—to use Underhood Black for the inner fenders, and I am happy with that choice.

I lightly sanded the brake booster and painted it with Underhood Black. I sprayed two heavy coats to give it a nice semi-gloss finish, and I am very pleased with the result. By the way, since the spot where the emissions label goes is now textured, I plan to stick the decal on the brake booster.

After the paint cures overnight, I will finish brushing Loctite Extend Rust Neutralizer on the chassis, and at that point I will remove the aluminum foil and start reassembling things under the hood. So stay tuned for Part 6 of the series.

And as always, thank you for reading.