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  1. #1
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    Jan 2014
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    Default 1973 Firebird Esprit Project

    Hi folks, my name is BK. Iíve been lurking this forum for years now, gleaning knowledge and inspiration from so many contributors. Since Iíve owned my project car, Iíve met a lot of great people via swap meets, craigslist, and car shows that were interested in seeing what I was up to. Its for this reason, and the fact that I want to get any constructive feedback/advice as I move forward, that I decided to finally create a build post.

    Please feel welcome to post any thoughts, suggestions, or questions you might have, Iím all ears!

    To be honest, I didnít get a ton done on the car for the first few years of ownership because 1. I used to fly twice a week for work. 2. I lived (and still live) 350 driving miles from the car. Now that I donít travel so much for work, I have a bit more energy and time to make it to my buddyís home shop to work on it during long weekends.

    January 18th 2014: I purchased this great running green 1973 Firebird Esprit in South Louisiana. The car came with a 4 inch thick folder full of maintenance records and receipts going back to 1973. The records indicated that the car spent most its life on the west coast (California and Arizona) which makes sense of the fact it was 99% rust free with only minor surface rust in a few sunbeaten spots and two 1 square inch areas on the dash/pillar area where I think leaves may have trapped water.

    Some specs on the car as purchased that I can still remember,.. not that any of that matters anymore:
    1970 Pontiac GTO 400 engine (with receipts from two rebuilds, last performed in 1995)
    4 Barrel Edelbrock
    Richmond 4 speed w/Hurst shifter
    Coyís Wheels
    Factory 10.5Ē rear
    CPP Springs
    Hotchkiss sway bar
    Flowmasters Exhaust
    Headers
    Cam (donít remember what brand/specs)
    Formula hood

    A saint of a friend of mine (pictured at our stop in Houston) drove me from central Texas to South Louisiana and followed me back, to help me get this car. I continued driving the bird from central Texas to Northwest Arkansas where it now sits in pieces. That drive was a blast, and I wish I had enjoyed the Pontiac 400 for a little while before I immediately began tearing the car down.








  2. #2
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    Nov 2012
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    Colorado
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    Looks like your off to a good start..enjoy the build..
    Jeff

  3. #3
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    Jan 2014
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    Thanks Jeff! Its been an exercise in mental and financial perseverance.. but its definitely getting a lot more enjoyable these days!

    April 5th 2014: I pulled the body panels and found it pretty funny how many panel shims were stacked to level the fenders. Check out how many were in just the passenger side, haha!



    Friends and I started sanding via DA on the body panels. Even after using acid paint remover, that 70's paint gummed up a ton of 3M sand pads. The condition of all the panels blew my mind.. solid and rust free!. My friend (pictured below) was working on her motorcycle build and told me to come up to the shop with some panels to let her help. I was happy to let her loose to work on the fenders for a bit. Visit her instagram @kimchi_dreams21 if you want to check out completed bike build.



    After getting rid of the green paint, my buddy helped me weld up all the decal and body trim holes. He did one fender to show me how its done (below) and told me to do the other. After he laughed at me and fixed my welds, he called his wife out into the garage so she could lay down some welds to add insult to injury.



    Pictured is what the finished/corrected work looked like before grinding down.



    After grind and degrease.



    My buddy laying down epoxy (using PPG DP90LF throughout the build).





    February 13th 2016: Fast forward 2 years. My buddy built a new house and started building up an awesome shop space on his property that he graciously lets me work in with him. I also decided that I want to run T/A fenders with a Formula hood.

    Naturally I sell my awesome Firebird fenders that I put a lot of time and money into, and buy a not so great set of T/A fenders late at night (in low light) from a guy on craigslist. After my buddy and I messed with them a bit we decided they were going to take more repair work than they were worth for me to get them the way I wanted them. This is where my never-ending quest for good T/A fenders began.



    Check out my buddy's bad as GTO in the background!


  4. #4
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    Jan 2014
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    Texas
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    October 15th 2016: We started removing glass and gutting the interior.



    August 18th 2017: Pulled the 1970 Pontiac 400 and began stripping the subframe.





    A friend of a friend bought the Richmond 4speed manual and Hurst shifter for a Chevelle he is building.



    March 30th 2018: A friend and I spent a day trailering the bird to get it blasted/epoxied. We also worked on his 5.3 LS swap C30 truck he named "MoreDoors". He's got pictures of it and some bike build projects on instagram @jsanfor if you are interested.





    I also picked up a used tool cart and moved it and most of my tools to my buddy's shop where I am working on the bird. I completed stripping the subframe, cataloging all the suspension and steering parts I would reuse. That step was pretty easy, since I'm retaining only the stock spindles ;)





    June 9th 2018: I prepped the firewall and subframe for epoxy and under hood paint. For the under hood paint I used SEM HR010. I failed to get firewall pictures.. but you will see it plenty later on.







    My buddy laid down the paint.



    July 28th 2018: I went down to Houston TX to see some friends and pick up a LS2 pulled out of a Corvette with 14k miles. I drove it up to NW Arkansas to be with the bird while I continue to prep the front end for it.


  5. #5
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    Jan 2014
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    Texas
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    August 2018: Slight diversion.. some friends and I hopped into an RV and road tripped out west to Bonneville Utah for Speed Week 2018. We met a lot of great people and saw some awesome cars.. including some 2nd gen F bodies. The whole tripped served as even more inspiration to make progress on the bird.









    We spent every night goofing off and hearing old race stories at the historic Carmen's Black & White Bar and Grill in Wendover Nevada.



    Last week I started working on the trans side of the engine. Even though the engine was low mileage, I wanted to take advantage of the easy access I currently have and decided to put a new rear main seal in. One of my friends who owns an auto mechanic shop suggested I replace the whole Rear Main Seal Housing GM Part # 12639250 and bolts while I was at it.



    Given the bellhousing and trans I will run, I needed to install the small needle style GM Pilot Bearing GM Part #14061685. You can borrow a pilot bearing puller (blind hole puller) and slide hammer from your local auto parts store. We used a 19mm impact socket and hammer to install the new one.



    I picked up a Monster Clutch Co. LT1-S Twin Disc Premium GTO Package w/Standard Weight Flywheel. I also opted for their remote bleeder line.





    A friend urged me to get a Quicktime RM8020 Scatter Shield because he is paranoid about exploding clutches/flywheels when you start varying drivetrains from the factory setup. So I went ahead and got one to install around the clutch. Be sure to remember to install the bellhousing backing plate BEFORE you install the flywheel... ask me how I know.





    Any time you change out your clutch with an aftermarket one, you might as well measure your clearance between your clutch floater plate fingers and your fully depressed throw out bearing surface to make sure your clearance is within your clutch manufacturers recommended specs. Take a look at this helpful diagram (2nd picture in link) from Tick Performance for a quick guide:
    https://www.tickperformance.com/tick...im-kit-3-pack/

    You can use this link for more in depth explanation:
    https://ls1tech.com/forums/manual-tr...need-shim.html

    I actually will need a spacer between my slave cylinder and trans. This and the fact that I didn't have slave cylinder mounting bolts on hand, put an end to my wrenching weekend. Be sure to take lots of notes as you measure!


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    San Diego
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    Sweet looking project. Love the 2nd Gen body style.

    Great group of friends that are willing to help out also.
    Brian

    1972 C10 - 454/TH400 - Short bed conversion - https://www.pro-touring.com/threads/...1972-C10-SoCal
    1970 Nova - LS Swap - https://www.pro-touring.com/threads/...Cal?highlight=



  7. #7
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    Thanks Brian! The car has quite a ways to go but it should end up being a really fun ride. As far as all help I've gotten along the way, I couldn't agree more. My friends have been an enormous source of support and I love that we've been able to spend time together wrenching on this thing!

  8. #8
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    Jan 2014
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    Last weekend, I installed my transmission. I recently met Aaron and Emily of Youtube and Motor Trend fame and after discussing their experiences with the T56 in Emily's GTO for a while, I was sold on going with a new Tremec T56 Magnum TUET-11009. If you like watching shows like Roadkill Garage, check out their Youtube channel "Flying Sparks Garage" or MotorTrend On Demand show "Live, Love, Wrench".



    To run this Ls2/Monster LT1-S Twin Disc Clutch/Quicktime Bell/GTO style slave cylinder/T56 combo, I ended up needing a .260" shim behind my slave cylinder to get a .100" optimal clearance based on Monster's recommendations. I opted for shim kit on Ebay because it prevented me from needing to stack multiple shims, but Tick Performance also sells a shim kit for a T56.

    For a bleeder line, I opted for the extended speed bleeder from Monster. For the clutch line, I could have gone with the fairly pricey (and really nice) Monster unit, but I decided to punch out the retaining pin and just cobble together my own using an Earl's Metric AN to -4 Male AN adaptor LS641001ERL and Earl's Speed-Flex Braided Stainless Steel 48 in. -4 AN Female to -4 AN Female brake line 64191948ERL. Note: Picture was taken prior to tightening fittings. I will add some insulation for the hose to keep it cool once I get everything mounted to the subframe.



    The Quicktime bell does not come with bolts to mount the trans to the bell, so I picked up a set from ICT Billet (Part #551652) for pretty cheap.



    While I wait on my LS swap mounts to come in, I picked up some clamshell Anchor Industries Engine Mounts 2395 to drill the rivets out of so I can install some Prothane 7-506-BL Black Motor Mount Kit inserts. OEM style on top, prothane inserts on bottom.


  9. #9
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    Jan 2014
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    Norfolk, VA
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    Cool car....looking forward to the updates!
    1972 C20 Suburban
    1964 Corvette Coupe

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
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    100

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    Looks like you have a nice budget build underway and some great friends showing you the way!

    Hope the beer is in good supply.

  11. #11
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    Mar 2009
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    Houston, TX
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    Nice build. Just curious, what are you using for the clutch master?
    Tu Ho
    Firebird V2-LS swap

  12. #12
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    FLYNAVY53 and 76TA, thanks guys! I really lucked out in the friends/support department. I'm am really hoping make major progress in 2019 on the build, and maintaining this post is helping to keep me honest

    Hi Tu, thats a great question! The short answer is that I have no idea about that or the pedal setup I will run at this point. I figured I would sort that out around the same time I decide if I want to keep the drive by wire or maybe switch to a cable throttle drive. I checked out your 1st gen bird build and it looks awesome! Are you still kicking around the idea of doing a 6.0/T56?

  13. #13
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    Aug 2011
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    Connecticut
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    Looks great! I love those snorkel hoods!


    1967 Firebird "Poor-Boy Build"
    New updated thread
    https://www.pro-touring.com/threads/...bird-(Updates)
    Follow me on Instagram @NaturalLivingMan



  14. #14
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    Mar 2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by bkbkbk View Post
    FLYNAVY53 and 76TA, thanks guys! I really lucked out in the friends/support department. I'm am really hoping make major progress in 2019 on the build, and maintaining this post is helping to keep me honest

    Hi Tu, thats a great question! The short answer is that I have no idea about that or the pedal setup I will run at this point. I figured I would sort that out around the same time I decide if I want to keep the drive by wire or maybe switch to a cable throttle drive. I checked out your 1st gen bird build and it looks awesome! Are you still kicking around the idea of doing a 6.0/T56?
    Thanks for the compliment on my build. In fact it's on V3 now with an LS2/TR6060. Torn it down to completely for engine/trans swap, then major suspension changes. I got it running in the fall of last year, and still working out the bugs.
    Tu Ho
    Firebird V2-LS swap

  15. #15
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    Nov 2008
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    Westminster, MD
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    Nice build! My dad had a 70 TA when I was growing up so I've always had a sweet spot for the 70-73 TA's and Firebirds. Looking forward to more updates!
    Ed Cooney
    '91 Convertible Firechicken, LO3 w/ T56, 3.73's, 17" Racestars w/ 275's - Hotchkis suspension, Koni's, C5/LS1 brakes

    '91 Formula, pending track day build

    '70 Buick Skylark Convertible, resto-mod project - on hold

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
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    Port St. Lucie FL
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    223

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    Nice build....whats up with the CC squarebody in the background?
    Kacy
    79 Corvette, 406 SBC, Holley EFI, 700R4

  17. #17
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    Very nice! I have a '73 Esprit as well! It is in "No Time" jail right now.

    I started to Pro Street it in the mid 80's but now will do a PT build when I get to it... Have to get the van up and running before I tear back into the 'Bird.
    Keep up the good work and keep posting.
    Mark
    Mark:
    "Bad Ast" Astro Van. Just because I did it... Doesn't mean it's possible...
    This my Bad Ast thread...
    https://www.pro-touring.com/showthre...roject-Faze-II
    This is my Fotki album...
    http://astroracer.fotki.com/

  18. #18
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    Jan 2014
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    Buryingthesun, thanks man! I really love the snorkel hood too, and its the reason I finally went with a early second gen Firebird over a Camaro (can't go wrong with either though). I wish the hood was lighter since I'm a fairly weight conscious with the car.. but the snorkels are staying!
    Tu, I look forward to hearing/seeing more of your car with the LS2/6Speed.
    ed1le and KacyZ28, thanks! The Chevy truck belongs to a good buddy. In an earlier post I mistakenly said it had a 5.3 in it, but my friend actually put a Vortec 6.0 and a TH400 in there. Its probably my favorite classic truck I've ever driven.
    Mark, don't worry about putting it in prison so long as you hang on to it! The aftermarket is really pushing the needle of possibilities for these cars today.

    Some quick housekeeping: The clamshell mounts I needed for the build were actually Anchor Industries Engine Mounts 2292 (small block Chevy). The ones I originally posted were actually for a big block. Since I will be running Holley/Hooker engine mounts, crossmember, headers, and exhaust.. I followed their template and drilled a hole on each side of the cross member in order to run the clam shells with their 12512HKR 1970-74 2nd Gen GM F-body LS Swap Engine Mounting Brackets (not pictured).





    A while back, I picked up a Detroit Speed, Inc. Speed Kit 2 front suspension set up and got it maybe 70% set up. I still need to repair some thread damage to the subframe a previous owner did when they put the old front sway bar in.





    About a month ago I attempted to mount the engine to the subframe but realized that the stock C6 Corvette pan would "fit".. but it was super close to touching the back of the Firebird engine cross member. I could kinda get my pinky in the gap, but was pretty certain if I bang shifted the car I would be tapping the oil pan to the engine cross member. So back to Summit Racing/eBay I went, to pick up:
    GM 12628771 LS1 F-Body oil pan, gasket, stock baffle, drain plug and mounting hardware (I used an eBay copy)
    GM 12551581 LS1 F-Body oil dip stick
    GM 12551577 LS1 F-Body oil dip stick tube
    GM 12558251 LS1 F-Body oil pickup tube
    GM 12558253 LS1 F-Body windage tray

    551621 ICT Oil Cooler Delete Plate



    It wasn't fun lifting the engine again to take the pan off, especially after I already installed the bellhousing... but it did let me see all the way up into my engine to the back of the pistons. I was happy to see everything looked great!



    F Body windage tray and oil pick up installed, forgot to take a pic with the dipstick/tube in. Notice the F body tray doesn't come all the way to the front of the pan like the Corvette did (F body pan is a lot shallower in the front of the engine).



    After getting the pan together, I dropped the engine again only to fight with the engine mounts for 2.5 hours. I am not sure if it was the Hooker mounting brackets or the Prothane inserts, but i was pretty disappointed in how much work it took to finally get everything sorted out and lined up. To complete the mounting, I also used:
    12616HKR BLACKHEART TRANSMISSION CROSSMEMBER 1970-81 2nd-gen F-body LS Swap - for T56
    Prothane 7-1604 GM Transmission Mount


    Finally it was in! Check out the difference in the Oil pan clearance between the back of the engine crossmember and the the deep part of the oil pans. The C6 Corvette pan is in the first pic and the F body in the second. Both sat above the crossmember at the lowest point of the pan!, but the f body sits back about 3 inches more!!. I didn't take a pic, but the F body pan is also way more shallow in the front where it hangs above the crossmember. I have no doubt the Corvette pan would have been fine using other engine mount brackets.. but I wanted to use all Holley/Hooker brackets since I am going to run their headers/exhaust.







    And one more shop shot just for fun. My friend scored a nice VW Bus to keep my Bird company.


  19. #19
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    I finally got around to fixing a cross thread in the subframe a previous mechanic or owner caused, allowing me to connect the DSE front swaybar. I buttoned up the front suspension, adding my freshened up stock spindles and installing new rods.









    My buddy sprayed my firewall with the same paint as my subframe.



    Last November I worked with Tucker at Strange Engineering to have them build me a complete rear end to replace my factory 10 bolt. I initially planned to run a 12 bolt but after talking to them and realizing that I couldn't fit a 33 spline truetrac in the 12 bolt, we landed on the stronger Strange S60 Rear End (Dana 60) with a 35 spline truetrac. Tucker also clued me in on the benefits of running the "New Big Ford" Flange with 2.5" offset which would allow me to choose from more rear brake options as compared to my stock configuration. I have to say I am really impressed that Strange took extra time to talk to me about my application and walk me through other options, rather than just fulfilling my initial build request... especially considering what I ended up with wasn't any more expensive.





    I picked up a set of Energy Suspension 3.4142G 1967-1981 Chevrolet Camaro Body Subframe Mounts and started mocking up my drivetrain. I will definitely need to work on the trans tunnel/shifter opening to run my T56 using the Holley mount setup.













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