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    1. #1
      Join Date
      Jul 2002
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      Mesquite, TX
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      4,906
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      derekf's 69 El Camino build

      Hi, I don't seem to have a build thread here. Maybe I should change that.


      This is my El Camino. I've had it since 1990, and my father for about 15 years before that. I learned to drive in this car.


      These posts - at least the first batch - are directly taken from my (now-defunct) website (the host has had a hardware failure and doesn't seem to be in a hurry to fix it). I'm only editing to remove administrivia that doesn't involve PT.com, and to remove discussions of my other cars (and, of course, to update to use BBCode instead of raw HTML). If I add commentary, I'll make sure it's obvious.




      Please do note that a) I'm not smart and b) I have no idea what I'm doing, neither at the start nor (really) now.


      (alternate title: "What do you get if you give an idiot a musclecar, a small budget, a lot of free time, and zero talent?")


      With that: Onward. We start the run in 2005, already in progress.


    2. #2
      Join Date
      Jul 2002
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      A couple of weeks ago I started thinking about the suspension on the El Camino.. the frame repairs are queued up and I'll be taking the car to the frame shop as soon as free time presents itself, but I really don't like driving with the drum brakes - last time I drove it to work I almost rear-ended a van on the way home specifically because my brakes sucked. Disc brakes have been the plan for quite a while now but I hadn't actually decided which setup to go with.

      My tax return this year will be quite a bit larger than I'm used to, so I've got some cash from that to spend on the car as well. I found myself wondering what to take care of - did I want to go ahead and get the truck-arm rear? Wheels? A down payment on a TIG welder? A cheap mill? A Detroit Truetrac diff? A Hydroboost setup?

      So one day I was walking through the garage to take out the trash. I looked at the El Camino and I looked at all the new parts, and I looked back at the Camino.. and looked at all these parts that would fit the Camino as if it were an A-body or something and the seed was planted.

      Of course, I was filled with doubt. The Chevelle was THE PROJECT CAR. The parts should be going on THE PROJECT CAR, it must be UPGRADED and RESTORED. The Camino is THE DRIVER. It must be MAINTAINED.
      I turned to my wife for reassurance that I should be putting the spiffy bits on THE PROJECT CAR. She told me "Well, if you put them on the Camino you'd be able to use them sooner.", which wasn't helpful.

      I turned to my friends at the pro-touring.com chat, thinking they'd be more helpful. The best suggestion I got was to ask Dennis. Dennis has an El Camino, of course he'd suggest going with the Elky.

      My doubt grew.

      Last weekend I needed to move the El Camino. Starting the car when it's been sitting for more than a couple of weeks is problematic at best; the battery drains and doesn't much like to be jump started (I suspect the battery cables are a large part of the problem, but the battery is now like 7 years old too). I'd even tried removing the stereo thinking that was the source of the drain (I know, I should have been more linear in my troubleshooting). No matter what I tried I couldn't get it to turn over more than a couple of revolutions - even if I hooked the 200 amp battery charger/starter directly to the cables without them attached to the battery - and it still wouldn't spin.

      I'm standing there, trying not to lose my patience with the car; there's a tow truck on its way with a third car that needs to be in our driveway and I can't move this one, when I notice something sticking up on the roof - it's the paint, peeling back. Wish I'd known a little more about paint when I was spraying the Camino, I blame the lacquer primer mostly.

      So.. the plans have changed. The Chevelle will be a cruiser - I couldn't really go play with it on a road course anyway, since it's a ragtop and I'm not putting a rollbar in it.
      The Chevelle gets the 350 that's in the garage (carbureted). I need to find those spiffy '65 valve covers with the "Chevrolet" script and a '65 air cleaner.

      The El Camino gets the spiffy front end parts. I may need to get different springs; 750lb springs are for a SB, but new springs are cheap so that's OK. It also gets the tall spindles, the C5 front brakes, and quite possibly the C4 rear brackets that are currently on the Chevelle. I need to get a 2004r tranny (and learn to rebuild it), a posi unit, and some 3.5x:1 rear gears. I really want to replace the roof panel, I hate the sunroof. I'll need to replace the whole panel; I also want to replace the bed floor.

      The Chevelle gets the TH350 from the Camino, and probably the stock UCAs since they have new bushings. It'll probably inherit the rear drums, and possibly the fronts.

      El Camino in the near future gets an optima battery and cables.. plus I think I've found my wheels - the Cragar 397 - a steel wheel that's cheap enough for me to justify buying soon. Once I have larger wheels I can start contemplating putting larger brakes on, etc. I will, of course, have to correct the paint issues on the roof - even if it's just a sealer coat preventing further rust; I imagine I'll have to do something more permanent on the paint soon though, if it's peeling on the roof it'll peel elsewhere as well.

      2021-05-11 edit: Yeah, there were a bunch of links here that don't point where they're supposed to anymore. Dennis was p-t member Dennis68/onrails/sinned, hasn't been around here since 2015 or so. Also I have to wait between posts or it'll merge them

    3. #3
      Join Date
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      I've been working a lot of overtime and collecting a lot of parts.

      First up on the list of things-to-do is the front suspension and brakes.

      I'd picked up these Global West tubular UCAs right before we moved into the house. Finally got around to getting the Moog K5250 offset UCA shafts (which are apparently hard to come by these days) and a set of GW's Del-A-Lum bushings, but ran into a problem: The press is just a little too small to put the second bushing shell in.


      I could go at it this way, but I wouldn't be able to remove the completed A-arm once I was done. That could be a problem.


      It looks like if I cut at the blue line...


      ..and replaced these pins with long bolts, I'd be able to finish all this up. Once again, buying the cheap tool created problems.


      I've been waiting for 18 months for a decent sale or a 10% off coupon or something similar at Tractor Supply. One finally happened. This is not a cheap tool - but it sure is fun!


      Finally got a big enough drill press to make the disk brake hubs. This thing rocks. I've cranked the bit speed down as low as it'll go (if memory serves, I'm at 380rpm). The material I'm drilling seems to behave better with the slow speed.


      Initial drilling for the hubs for the disk brake conversion. If you're not really sure what I think I'm doing here, see THIS page - Joe's been a big help through the process.


      Basically the plan is to drill a whole bunch of holes all the way around so I can cut the hub part off the rotor part without having to spend 6 months with a sawzall. A mill would have been better, or even a lathe, but I don't have those.


      Not related, but while I was at Tractor Supply, I went ahead and got the gas for the MIG conversion for the welder. Now I need to build a welding cart. Chopsaw will help a lot with that.


      This is what it looks like towards the end of drilling the hub away from the rotor. A minute or so with the sawzall is all it takes to separate the two at this point.


      At that point, you're left with this. It only takes a few minutes with a 4 1/2" grinder and a flap wheel to smooth these out. I could have sworn I took pictures once I had smoothed them, but I guess not since I can't find them now.


      Obviously, I'll need two hubs. Here's the drilling on the second one. Much like everything else, the second one went much faster.


      Went ahead and did modify the press. Here's the UCA with the shaft and bushing shells installed.


      And here's what it looks like completed, with the exception of the cotter pins which I haven't done yet.


      Here's the bare 96 Impala SS spindle. Or maybe it's a clockwork scorpion. One of the two. If it's the spindle, the disk brake mounts need to be cut off with that spiffy chop saw.


      If it's a scorpion, removing the claws is a good idea too. The net result is the same. The hole to the right is for the anti-lock brakes. I've got one of the sensors still (the other had the wires cut.. I might still dig it back out of the trash just in case) - it'd be kinda neat to do something with them, although I'm not sure how well it'd deal with the different rotor-hub setup I've got now.

      Next up is pressing out the wheel studs that come in the Camaro rotors - they're metric, and I'm not. Once they're pressed out, the holes need to be enlarged to 14mm so a set of Moroso 46160 wheel studs can be pressed in. (Again with the metric! 14mm works out to be a .551" bit so the .560" knurl works out.) Finding a 14mm bit was quite a bit harder than I expected. Finally found one at either Enco or McMaster-Carr (I don't remember which) but with a bit more searching, I found a source locally: Elliot's Hardware on Maple here in Dallas. They've got pretty much everything - it's where I got the assorted taps and dies I needed, as well as the grade 8 and 10.9 hardware I needed for this swap. I also got some plumbing supplies I needed for the house there that I couldn't find anywhere else (can you tell I'm impressed with Elliot's?)


      The Moroso wheel studs are too long, unless your wheels are insanely thick or you're running open-ended lug nuts. Neither apply to me, so I cut them off. I put the die on it before cutting to make sure that I still had threads when it was done.


      One of the hubs after pressing in the studs. Used sockets as spacers when pressing, which dented the hub. The first stud I did I used a smaller deepwell socket that had pretty thin walls - you can see the result on the bottom left. It looks a lot deeper in the picture than it does in person.


      Here is the first spindle after cutting off the old caliper mounts. I should have cut much closer to the dust shield bolts on both sides.


      This is what the bracket I got from Joe looked like. It's aluminum (I think), and shiny.


      While pressing the studs into the second hub, the press exploded. Maybe a single long bolt wasn't such a great idea. Replaced the one grade 2 6" bolt with two 1" grade 8 bolts and finished pressing in the studs.


      Once I finished the studs, I went ahead and used the used 2000 vette rotors I have to test and make sure everything lines up - it does.


      Tapping the dust shield holes to 7/16". This was fun. And by "fun", I mean a lot of work.


      The little raised area on the bottom left of the ear here prevented the bracket from lining up with the bolt hole. It needed to be removed with a die-grinder.


      Similarly, the raised bit on the left side of this ear also needed to go.


      This is close to the end of modification to this spindle. The main body of the spindle needed to be clearanced for the bolts that attach the abutment to the bracket - and for the socket to tighten them down. I did some cleanup after this pic, but this is the basic idea. If you look at the pic right after cutting off the ears, you should be able to tell how much I had to remove.


      And then I ran into a snag: the holes in the bracket didn't line up with the holes in the abutment. They weren't off by much, but it was enough that I couldn't get the second bolt started. I told Joe and he immediately Fedexed me out a new pair - which were better, all the edges were radiused and the bolt holes had a nice bevel to them. The new brackets lined up perfectly. I would have taken a picture, but I was too busy using them to make a car.


      The first spindle-bracket-abutment-caliper-thing is complete. Here's where I learned something cool: The used C5 rotors I'd picked up ("great shape! Only 3500 miles" or similar) were warped. Pretty sure I didn't save enough buying a pair of used ones to cover buying a set of new ones. I haven't put the pads in the calipers because a) I still have to swap out the rotors and b) my hands were seriously greasy by this point.


      Once I got the first spindle done, it only took me about 45 minutes to get the second one done. I cut more aggressively when I was taking the ears off the spindle, immediately took it to the drill press and perforated the areas I knew I'd need to remove for bolt head clearance, drilled, tapped, and assembled. This rotor isn't so bad, but I can't see replacing only one side.




      Still need to acquire:
      C5 front brake lines<br>
      69 Camaro rear brake lines (for the LT1 Camaro rear disks)
      Master Cylinder (need to check if mine is deep or shallow pushrod)
      The quest for an LS1/T56 continues.
      I've ordered a Mk VII radiator fan and should be getting an LS1 radiator, evaporator, condenser, and lines later this week.
      Exchanged the 3.55 rear gears for a set of 4.11s so I think I'm pretty well locked in to doing something with a serious overdrive - like a T56.

      2021-05-14 edit: I guess I'd decided somewhere around here to get an LS?

    4. #4
      Join Date
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      2021-05-14 edit: (and I guess I got one; you'd think I'd have a post about it)

      Primary goal today was to go ahead and take the tranny off the engine, so I could see what kind of condition the clutch was in. Started by carefully removing the bellhousing-to-engine bolts and putting them in a marked bag - I'll need these later. The fact that a couple of the bolts were only finger tight does not bode well.


      Needed to unhook two sets of wires here on this side of the tranny (well, it was three - but I didn't see the third until after I'd removed the other two)


      My first view of the pressure plate. Again with this, a couple of the bolts were only finger tight, and others had been cranked down and the heads rounded off some. My assumption is that these are supposed to be bolts with a 13mm head but I had to use a 1/2 socket to get the rounded ones out. Added "Pressure plate bolts" to the shopping list.


      The throwout bearing and hydraulics. I have no opinion on the shape of these. If I have to replace any of the clutch, I may as well do this too.


      This too does not fill me with happiness - I cannot help but think that GM does not put the shifter on with this much goop. As best as I can with no shifter handle I ran it through the gears and it went into each gear with a solid click so I think it's OK in the guts. I hope.


      Flipped the tranny most of the way over to get the crossmember off and ran into a couple of problems: 1. I don't have a 19mm deepwell socket. Fixed that by using the four-way tire iron that does have a 19mm end. 2. When you flip the tranny over, tranny fluid leaks out (see it puddling next to the socket wrench). At least I didn't see anything metallic in the fluid as I cleaned it up.


      Business-end of the pressure plate.


      And the clutch disk. At least this does look relatively new.


      I have no basis to judge if this flywheel is in good shape or not. I'll ask others.


      Pretty sure that this cut line is an indication that I will need new clutch lines. Added to the list.



      In the category of "stuff I don't need", the EGR assembly is at the top of the list, with the computer reprogramming and the LS6 intake. Again, not a good sign that there's only one bolt holding the bracket on.


      Did some cleanup on the tranny. Shiny! (and heavy.. but mostly shiny!)


      Not all that familiar with Camaros and the LS1 in general, but this sure looks like a power steering fluid cooler as part of the radiator hose.. if that's correct, then it's a bonus!

    5. #5
      Join Date
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      Primary goal today was to get the old iron-block 350 off the stand and into the corner and put the LS1 on the stand. While I was at it, I found more .. questionable .. things about this engine I bought.

      Not sure what either end of this was supposed to plug into; this end was unplugged and the other end had been cut.


      No idea what this connector connects to, but the connector is destroyed and must be replaced.


      Found something spiffy. These were lodged between the serpentine belt and the crank pulley - like they'd fallen down there and gotten stuck. They're part of a Nitrous Express kit (based on the NX logo on one of them). Assuming now that this engine was sprayed. Sigh.


      Two trips to the local hardware store and a lot of effort later, the engine is on the stand. What a pain, mainly because of a) the way I had the LS1 situated - I had to hoist from the back and turn the engine around in the air to put the stand on it.. only dented the Chevelle door in a couple of places (which is of course a couple too many) and b) the 350 that was on the stand was HEAVY.. I don't remember blocks being that heavy but most of the time they don't still have the crank in them...


      I don't know that I understand why there's a hole in the throttle blade. Additionally, it would appear that someone tried to adjust the stop to make it open more but went too far. If I don't have to replace the throttle body, I'll need to drill and tap for an adjustable stop. Not a big deal, but seems to be indicative of the type of life this engine has had. At this point I'm ready to assume that the engine needs complete rework but I'm really, really, really hoping that the tranny is in good shape internally.


      Not sure what this vacuum line is for, but it's broken.


      This may be the other end, but no idea what this is for either.


      If the head bolts on the engine are a single-use item and should be replaced whenever removed, why is the middle bolt in this pic completely different from the others? I'm hoping it's not a stripped hole, although with the fun stuff I'm finding perhaps getting to replace the block would be a relief.



      Tomorrow (or Saturday), I'll take the engine off the stand again and do a test-fit in the Chevelle's bay. I want to know just how badly the oilpan intersects the frame (or if it really does with the A-bodies, since F-bodies are rear-steer and need to dodge the center link). I already know I'll need to notch the frame for the compressor; may need to notch the frame for the oilpan too while I'm at it.<p>In other news, that little voice in my head that causes trouble is acting up. It's saying things like "Instead of sending the harness and computer in to be reworked, get one of the programs that'll do the computer and the chassis harness - add the Camaro steering column with all the accessories attached to it like the wipers and headlamps.. and see if you can't make VATS work" I know I won't save much by doing my own harness work; and the cost of the software almost completely absorbs any I do save, but then I'd have the software.. and I could turn VATS on and off as needed while trying to make the BCM talk to the PCM.

      2021-05-14 edit: Surely there can't be an entry without commentary?

    6. #6
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      Not too sure what I was trying to show here - perhaps the large vacuum hose that's not connected to anything on one end and to the back of the intake on the other? Anyway, this is what the back of the intake looks like.



      Also not quite sure what I was trying to capture here. Possibly that the hard line comes forward over the top? Anyway, the pic may be useful to me or to someone other than me at some point.



      The connector I'm holding in my grubby little paw with the single wire is to the alternator. No idea what the cut wires go to, or if they're important.



      Same wires, less of my hand. I believe the sensor in the head in this pic to be the coolant temp sensor. It's bundled with the same wires that go to the alternator and to the mysterious cut area.



      I am vaguely sure that the end of the fuel rail should have a schrader valve in it. Mine does not. Valve added to list.



      Vacuum hose connects the throttle body to the front port on the passenger's valve cover.



      Showing the location of the compressor in relation to the engine mount bolts.



      The mystery wire from a previous update appears to be a spare - I found another just like it attached to the engine. Might have been there to help repair that destroyed connector?



      This little bracket goes on the back fuel rail bolt on the driver's side. Paw gets grubbier as the day goes on.



      This is where I forgot to take pics for a while. Here's the parts I'd removed.



      My primary goal today was to be able to get a leakdown test on the engine. Here I've taken the valve covers off and I've backed off all the rocker bolts so the valves are closed. Innards of the head appear to be in decent shape - there's no sludge and all looks vaguely clean.



      Passenger side is similar.



      Unfortunately the results of the leakdown test weren't as positive as I would have hoped.
      Broken down by cylinder:
      1 - 3% (good start)
      3 - 16% (ugh. I can hear/feel it getting past the exhaust valve)
      5 - 4%
      7 - 6%
      2 - 17% (again, escaping past the exhaust)
      4 - 5%
      6 - Unknown. The spark plug threads are too boogered for me to get the tester in there.
      8 - 3%

      I reckon that once I get the heads off I'll be able to get a better idea of what's going on with #s 2 and 3. I'll have to do something with the threads in #6's spark plug hole - I'm not a huge fan of helicoils but if I don't end up replacing the heads I don't think I'll have a choice.

      Pile of parts is larger now.


      The hole on the top edge of the driver's valve cover (almost centered in the pic) - should it be threaded to mount the coil packs? Mine is not.


      Here's where I called it a day. This is Texas in August - it's hot out, which really takes away one's desire to keep working. Additionally, I had a very limited selection of metric tools and the 12point 10mm socket was not able to get a grip on the head bolts. Closed up the garage, took a quick swim, then went to Lowes to get better metric tools.


      I didn't try a test fit of the engine in the Chevelle. Maybe tomorrow. Should be able to take the heads off tomorrow too, to see what they look like underneath.

    7. #7
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      Took the rockers and their base off on the driver's side. Looked OK.



      Then I saw something odd. Driver's side intake port looks like one would expect.



      Passenger side looks like someone got their "My First Head Porting Kit" and did a lousy job of it.



      Driver's side pushrods. One of these things is not like the other.



      No big gaping holes in the pistons, but a nice buildup of carbon.



      Head looks normal too. Not too sure why I care, since the heads already need to be replaced.



      Passenger side head has flecks of something in it, which doesn't thrill me.



      That unusual-headed bolt that was in the passenger head is definitely larger in diameter than the normal head bolts. I tried sticking a normal head bolt in that hole to see if perhaps they'd just tapped the top and left the normal threads intact.



      No such luck. The black line is where the threads start on the equivalent hole on the driver's side. My guess is that there's part of a head bolt stuck in there.



      Passenger side pushrods. Again, one of these things is not like the others.



      Broke one of the knock sensors. I had misread where the connector should be squeezed at it's narrowest point; the connector should actually be squeezed at the widest. Looks like of the two, I picked the right one to break though.



      Passenger side head underside.



      Took the pan off. Couldn't get the balancer/pulley off because I don't have a three-jaw puller yet.



      Here's what the guts of the pan looked like; the oil didn't look as black in person.



      Detail of the pickup connection.



      Need to find what was connected here.




      Pretty sure at this point I need to replace the heads. Once I get the balancer off and the oil pump out, I'll go ahead and unhook the rods and mains and take a look at the journals. If there's anything odd there, it'll be time to replace the block too.

    8. #8
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      Getting the pulley off was .. an exercise. Sorry, no in-progress pics - I didn't have enough hands to make it easy even without trying to photograph it. Suffice it to say that I'm happy I'm not doing this again for a while.



      Front cover removed. Here's the oil pump and timing chain. No pics of the rear cover removal.



      More for my own reference, here's the oil pump.



      Yeah. It's a blurry pic. This is the cam. The numbers on it say "0965 4 08 9244". I don't know what it is.



      With a 22mm socket I was able to remove the knock sensors, and after that the valley cover. One more piece for the pile.



      Bores still have a good crosshatch and no lip. This makes me happy.



      All of the rod bearings looked great. There were.. issues.. with the main bearings.



      Larger pic with more detail.



      Mains and rod journals.



      Problem child journal. I can't catch my fingernail on the line so it may be OK.



      Rear main



      Everything that can be unbolted has been unbolted. My shopping list is large at this point, unfortunately.



      The pistons, rings, and rods were in great shape, so I'm not planning to take them apart - just clean the carbon off the top. If I find anything funky at that point, then I may have to reevaluate the plan.

      Now that the engine is empty, I'll likely put the oilpan back on and do some test fits in the car. Or perhaps I'll get some parts and start putting it all back together. One of the two.

    9. #9
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      2021-05-11 edit: I'd decided that I needed to put the 396 in the El Camino on a dyno to see where I was.

      Ok, this vaguely sucks. Had some trouble with the car kicking down a gear for a couple of (aborted) runs... damn the car sounds good though (first time I've been outside it when it kicked down). First full run after disconnecting the kickdown linkage, this happened at 4600 rpm or so (roughly 120mph). I am pleased that this happened here instead of on the freeway



      It looks like it was the front u-joint that failed. That would have really sucked had it happened anywhere else



      I have no earthly idea what this is. It was under the tranny in the dyno bay after the ujoint failed. Might not be part of my car, but I don't feel that lucky.
      2021-05-11 edit: I'm not.



      Here's the report from the single run that happened. I don't know if the driveshaft caused the jitteryness seen here or not or if it's a cam/cylinder thing


    10. #10
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      Over the past few days of tearing down the engine, there have been things that I was not sure about or was completely clueless. If you know LS1s well, you probably already knew all these answers. I don't know them at all so my research has found fun things.

      All of the pics today are pics that have already been posted, along with what the answer to whatever question I had was.

      Throwout bearing gets replaced. Not so sure about slave yet.



      This is part of an O2 extension. Probably not needed (but we'll see once I get some headers and o2 sensors). If nothing else, it's good free wire to use to extend the other connectors.



      This went to an O2 sensor. I believe it went to one of the rear sensors, which would mean it wasn't needed. There are two good sensor plugs on the harness, plus the two extensions so I should be able to make the front sensors work just fine.



      This hole also exists on normal LS1 throttle blades, but this one is oversized - typically a mod done to work around a very large cam. If I can find the GM part number for a replacement blade, I think I'll go ahead and replace this one.



      The cut wires go to the front (at least I believe it to be the front) O2 sensor on this side. This may be what the cut extension was attached to. Or maybe it'll be what it attaches to later.



      The schraeder valve used in the fuel rail is the same as those used in tires. I just need to go to Autozone and pick up a pack of valve stem cores.



      Looks like the cut wires are the 200 and 201 connectors - not important, just things like the ALDL connector, fuel pump enable, stuff like that. You know, optional bits. Really wish they hadn't cut it though; there's three grey wires between those two connectors and two green w/ white and now I get to try and figure out which is which.



      Casting number would appear to indicate that the oil pump has already been updated to the later design. Verifying.



      Stock LS1 cam.



      Crank gets turned.


    11. #11
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      Not all this stuff happened today - slow but steady progress since the last update.

      Tried a test-fit of the LS1 in the 65 without frame or oilpan modifications. Had to move the engine WAY back to clear the crossmember.



      Passenger side view. You can see how the pan clears the crossmember.



      Head is very close to the firewall.



      As in 1/2" close.



      Closeup of how the front of the pan clears the crossmember. I don't foresee a problem here, with the exception of the AC compressor. Also not sure how the relocation brackets to mount the engine will clear the compressor. At this point, I decided to wait until I had the Camino in the garage to try to fit the engine. Options include:
      • Make brackets that mount the engine exactly where the above pics put it. Not sure if that's too close to the firewall or not, or how well it'd clear the AC box.
      • Get the S&P brackets and oil pan modification. I'll still have to notch the crossmember for the compressor.
      • Set the engine back even more, notching the firewall.
      • Go with the BRP brackets, which locate the engine higher in the chassis. I don't like this option.




      Got parts washer fluid, and cleaned the carbon off the pistons as well as the front and rear engine covers. Not too impressed with this water-based solvent - doesn't seem to really break up the grease so while I brushed the crap off, I have new sludge sticking to other previously cleaned areas.



      Looks like part of the problem with the old heads may have been from piston-to-valve contact. Similar dents on 7 of the 8 pistons.



      Clearanced the block for the LS6-style PCV (see this link for details). I don't want to put the crank in until I know that I've got the grinding done. Also cleaned up the casting flash in the oil drainbacks.



      Late model Camaro steering column for the Camino. This'll get me the VATS, cruise control controls, intermittent wipers, and headlight controls on the column while keeping tilt.



      So long as I'm merging in the new technology, may as well merge in the power door locks. I've got the BCM to match these remotes (and the VATS in these keys, for that matter)



      This huge strand of wires is not the new harness. This is just the power window/power door lock harness. Hoo boy. The black box is the controller for the "auto-down" feature, which has always struck me as a really cool idea.



      Got the accumulator I needed. If I can come up with an AC vacuum pump that'll do R134 systems, I want to take the system down to a good vacuum and leave it to prevent any damage from moisture getting in. I also got the stock wiper motor. Let's see if I can adapt it.



      This huge pile of wire is the interior harness. Some of the funtionality here will be removed (ABS, Airbags, stereo controls). There's a lot of work yet to be done here. I still need to get the chassis harness as well (not the engine harness, I've already got that)



      The crank is back from the machine shop.



      Remember this unspecified part from the dyno day failure? Found where it came from when I put the new driveshaft in.



      I put the new driveshaft in (thanks Richard!). Was able to pull the car off the grass where it's sat since the tow truck dropped it off. When I put the car in reverse, it died. I tried to put the engine in park so I could restart it, and it wouldn't go. Got out and looked under the car, found that the tranny was not in there straight anymore. The block, on the other hand, appeared to be normal so it looks like that mystery part was part of the bellhousing. Sigh.. it gets worse.



      I've got a large power gate. It keeps people out of my garage if I leave the door open, and out of the cars when I'm not out there. It's got all sorts of neat bells and whistles.. including an auto-close a couple of minutes after opening. (do you see where this is going?)



      As soon as I realized that the car was not going to be able to back up on its own, and that it was blocking the alley, I rushed around to the front of the house to grab the beater and use it to push the car back. I did not think to turn off the gate. It bounced off the car more than once while I was pulling around. Hopefully this will pop out.



      At least one good thing happened today: I got new heads. These 853s have a nice mild port to them, and came with a set of beehive springs (Comp 918s?). The cam I ordered (Thunder Racing TR224/224 on a 116LSA) came in a package with a set of new 918s (and new pushrods), so I'll go ahead and swap the springs out and sell these. I do need to clean up some carbon buildup in the cylinders before bolting these up though. Not a big deal.


    12. #12
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      Large update, due to the 6 weeks or so where my site was down. I think I'm missing some pictures, but nothing can be done about that. I'm also having to go from memory on some of the events and the order.. so bear with me; lots to enter in today.

      I'd accomplished putting the pistons in the block - not sure which side of the engine this is; I'd used a scotchbrite pad to clean up the faces (which might not have been that good of a plan). A couple of things to note here: #6/#5 has the valve impact dent on the wrong side of the piston; which would indicate that this piston came from the other side of the engine or was installed backwards (I think I already discussed that) and the #7/#8 impact-dent is not in line with the other dents - perhaps part of a valve fell into the piston? The rod was twisted?



      Not sure which side this is either. All the dots face forward and the dents are all in the proper location. All the cylinders held oil, which I guess means that the rings aren't TOO boogered up.



      Pulled it apart and tried again. Here's the second attempt - I think this is the passenger side. All the dots face forward and the rods appear to be "right" but the dents are in the wrong place. At this point I decided I really didn't like the looks of the cam bearings so I pulled it all apart and took it up to the local machine shop to get the cam bearings replaced and the block cleaned. While they were at it they could try to remove that goofy broken headbolt and check the bores, since I lack the tools to measure the bores correctly.



      I got the news: one of the cylinders had a micro-gouge in the wall. Punching the block out .010 was sufficient to take care of that. New cam bearings, a good cleaning (although the back of the block didn't seem to get cleaned much) and a new set of pistons and rings and I was back in business. They were not able to remove the broken headbolt.



      Shiny stock hypereutectic pistons from Sealed Power. Not all that thrilled with the rings though; a couple of them had a smidgen more clearance than I would have liked; I'd picked up one of them spiffy ring grinders and didn't get to use it at all.



      It's an LS1, all aluminum block. Should not require paint... but it's going in a late 60s GM car, which means it should be ORANGE. Guess which one won out?



      I torqued, untorqued, and retorqued the main bearings about 6 times before I was truly happy. Here's the final pic.



      Pistons installed. Not pictured: ARP rod bolts.



      The Thunder Racing TR224/224 116 cam is installed. The clearances between the cam and the cam bearings were TIGHT. I hope I didn't tear anything up trying to get the cam all the way into the block. Here's where I called it a day on the day I was doing this; I didn't have the torque specs for these bolts. I did loctite them and torque them properly later.



      Timing chain installed, bolts loctited and torqued.



      Yeah, it's a blurry pic - but I cleaned up the port in the oil pump some.



      New seals front and back.



      The ported oil pump could be installed. It's important (apparently) to center the pump correctly on the crank. In this pic, the windage tray and oil pickup are installed. It's important to make sure that the o-ring remains on the pickup - otherwise you'll be sucking air instead of oil.



      You do this with a couple of .002 feeler gauges - loosely attach the pump body then run them around the perimeter 180 degrees apart to center it on the crank.



      Lifters, lifter cups, and valley cover installed.



      Went to try and degree the cam. I'd picked up a nice dial-gauge-with-magnetic-base thing to use with this. Think about that for a second: magnetic base. Aluminum block. Needless to say, it didn't stick too well.



      Luckily, the post that screwed into the base was the correct size to screw into a head bolt hole.



      And here's the wheel attached. Unfortunately for me, there doesn't seem to be a crank socket that works for LS1s yet and I screwed up the readings repeatedly by accidentally loosening the crank bolt.



      Here's the final readings. I haven't tried to figure out what they mean as I'm pretty sure they're completely ruined.



      Anyway, since the pump is centered the pump cover can be installed and torqued properly.



      The pan needs to be installed before the front cover.



      Front cover and pulley installed. Wasn't nearly as bad as I'd been led to believe, although this is still the old bolt - new bolt will wait for the engine to NOT be on a stand.
      2021-05-11 edit: Maybe now's a good time?



      Rear cover also installed. Not convinced that I've got the seal "right" - but I guess the proof will be when it's started. Rear cover isn't painted because nobody will ever see it.



      Time to install the heads. Started with the driver's side. Used GM head gaskets.



      The gaskets seem strange to me - they're three layers only attached at the top and bottom.



      Driver's side went on without issues. Started to install the passenger side when I found that the large funky headbolt wouldn't fit through the hole in the head.



      My normal drill was not sufficient to drill this out; even if I tried to sneak up on the final size (1/2"). I had to use the drill press for it.



      When I went to clean up the bottom of the bolt hole on the bottom of the head, I found that the cylinders were coated with carbon (not sure why I didn't look before.).



      And the after. Not sure whether or not I'll be pulling the driver's side or not.



      Went to install the passenger side head.. but the middle M8 bolt hole appears to be stripped out as well. Had to go get a set of M8 helicoils. Reassembly is on hold while I wait for the replacement head bolts - you're not supposed to reuse these bolts. I ordered two sets. It's amazing - I went to the local Chevy house to see if I could get a new set of bolts instead of mailordering; they didn't have the boxed bolt-set but they had the individual bolts. Since none of the M8 bolts got any torque to them, so I got a quote for 8 of the long bolts and 2 short ones... 59 bucks for those 10 bolts! I got the boxes for 17.50 each instead.



      The thermostat housing had been drilled and tapped for some manner of electric temp sensor. I've ordered a new housing as well, since my sender will be threaded into a head.



      Installed the water pump.



      Rocker arms and pushrods installed on the driver's side. I still need to torque them properly. Had to get an adapter so I could do 10mm with my 1/2 drive torque wrench.



      Bought parts. Shelf includes the Pro 5.0 shifter, the fuel filter/regulator; the head bolts (since used); and the clutch slave. Not pictured: clutch master; the one I ordered from RockAuto had no hose or reservior.



      Got an LC-1 wideband O2 sensor.



      Narrowband O2 sensors too.



      Got a MAF, but I'm starting to lean towards going Speed Density instead of using a MAF.
      2021-05-11 edit: Confusion: The MAF on the car now is ported. This is not. I don't believe I'm the one that did the porting. Did I get two MAFs?



      Fuel pressure gauge and elbow. Thinking to strip the anodizing off the elbow though.



      Gauges. The oil pressure and water temp gauges were backordered; they've arrived now. I know there's a lot of parts I've forgotten to mention: I know my EFILive isn't pictured; but there should be others too that I just can't think of.


      2021-05-11 edit: Fun Fact: Those gauges were the first thing anyone ever ordered from GPSuperstore; something with their order management software would occasionally default to me as the destination address because of it.

    13. #13
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      Today is not the day that all this happened, but today is the day I got off my lazy behind and documented it all.

      First off, the transmission is rebuilt. You get no pictures and no writeup, because I'm a big jerk. No, actually I took a lot of pictures and wrote up a complete step-by-step.guide to the rebuild, with the intention that it'd be hosted on Pro-touring.com, but the feedback I got from the folks I showed it to suggested that I submit it to the magazines; so I've done so and now I'm just waiting for responses. Either it'll get published in a magazine and I'll get a little extra money to use for parts, or it'll be published on Pro-touring.com and I won't get any money but it'll still get published, so either way you'll get to read it eventually; have patience.
      2021-05-11 edit: I got money, it got published on Musclerides, don't know what the status is on it now (but since I got paid it's not mine to post anymore, patience won't help)

      Anyway, with the transmission rebuild complete, it came time for the Ceremony Of The Shuffling Of The Cars.

      This is a pain because of
      a) my driveway gate is in the way,
      b) my driveway slopes a lot, and
      c) neither car moves under its own power.

      Luckily, the wife made a friend at her local hangout that happens to be a repo man, and he's very good at moving cars quickly from difficult places.

      So, of course, before I can shuffle cars, I have to get everything out of the way. For once, here's the Chevelle with nothing at all stacked on it.



      This is the only picture of the T56 you get for now. Here's where most of the stuff stacked on the Chevelle went.



      And, of course, here's where the rest of it went. I still want to build a few more shelves over here to replace the open shelves on the left. I've got a lot of parts left to install.



      It took Mark about 30 seconds to hook the Chevelle up to his tow rig...



      .. and away it went, with two flat tires and no steering/parking brake/drivetrain/brakes.



      He just dropped the Chevelle on the street corner (which worried me a bit), then picked up the El Camino. Here's where the Camino used to be.



      Poof, as slick as can be, the Camino was in the garage.



      Looks mean, if you can get past the bent bumper and plate (it was already that way, so don't blame Mark).



      The Chevelle gets to wear a cover for a while. Actually, there's two covers here. I know the top cover is breatheable, so there's a tarp under it covering most of the passenger compartment/cowl (not completely covering so evaporation can happen).



      With the Camino in the garage, it's time to start tearing it down.



      Bumper off.



      Hood and grille removed. I'm thinking to make a custom grille, although it might suck enough that I'd reinstall the original. I'd also gotten the headlight surrounds all mixed up, so they'll fit better when I put them back on (if I don't replace them)



      Once I took the complete clip off the Camino, I needed somewhere to put it.. and I had that poor clipless Chevelle. So, here's what it looks like if you try to put a 69 clip on a 65. The bolts don't come close to lining up. I hope I didn't bend anything trying to carry the clip over there by myself.



      The clip is removed. I have some rust issues on the core support over near the battery - that, coupled with the damage caused to it by the wreck in 1991, suggests that it might be time to replace the whole part.



      The 396, in all its dirty glory. I told the wife that this was going to be the motor that was going in "her" Chevelle, and she responded "Not like that it isn't" - which I took as free reign to upgrade the motor while I'm at it.



      I've got rust issues in the cowl - this is the driver's side, behind the fender.



      This is the passenger side. I'm actually not too surprised at the rust. I'll get this taken care of and that'll hopefully also take care of some of our flooding in heavy rain - water comes in at the vents onto the floorboard.



      Taking bits off the engine begins.



      Radiator removed. It's probably going in the Chevelle so I need to keep it from getting damaged.



      Hard to see, but the arrow points at the broken bellhousing of the tranny.



      And after a lot of work, the engine comes out.

      Things I learned:
      1. The torque convertor has to slide forward a LOT before it comes free.
      2. Transmissions don't like having fluid in them, and if you give them an excuse they'll get rid of it.
      3. The oil filter should be removed before you start trying to pull the engine.
      4. Be careful of the AC box when lifting the engine - it cracks easily.

      These are correctable though.



      This is what's left of the transmission. It's too bad, really - it shifted well. I'm going to find somewhere to put this; the guts should be OK since it's only got roughly 10k miles on it, and I should need a TH350 at some point.



      Anyway, now I need some 1/4" steel plate to make motor mounts, a plasma cutter to open up my tranny tunnel, some sundry parts from the local PepO'ReillyZone (like 396 motor mounts and Camaro radiator hoses), and I can start putting a different motor in this car.

    14. #14
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      Tasks for the day today included removing the entire interior; the brake master cylinder and booster; the steering column; heater and AC components; assembling the LS1 and T56; and test-fitting them into the vehicle so I can figure out how much of the floor I'll need to cut out.

      This was my starting point today. Here I've removed the driver's seat and pulled the gauge carrier out.



      Center console and steering column removed.



      Looks like my throttle cable was about to snap anyway.



      Interior removed. The carpet was trash - the leaks caused some mold and general water damage. I've got rust issues - driver's side front, and passenger side rear. I expect those are also because of the leaks.



      My "used but in good shape" clutch doesn't appear to be in good shape. I am relatively sure that McLeod rebuilds these for a fee; I'll have to find out the details tomorrow.



      Better view of the flywheel. Was almost tempted to go ahead and put my stock single-disk clutch that came with the engine in.



      But instead I just attached the transmission to the engine with no clutch at all. I needed to get it in the car to figure out the engine and transmission mounts and figure out where I needed to clearance the tunnel.



      Here's as far as I got it in. I had some issues with the crossmember - I'd left it in when I was pulling the 396 out; getting the bolts off was difficult, I even had to cut a hole in the floor to get a socket on one of them.



      Alternate view of my final position.


    15. #15
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      Today's plan was to get the engine and transmission mocked up in the car. I'd bought a 9 inch grinder last month and a cutting disk to make short work of cutting the sheet metal. It worked like a champ. The plan is to cut some 1 inch strips and use them to raise the top of the tunnel to clear the T56. Not sure how well that plan is going to work yet though.

      I think I've reached the point of no return on the tranny swap here. At this point the transmission is vaguely in - the engine is still about 1/8 to 1/4" too far forward and 1/8 to 1/4" too low (it's resting on the crossmember) and the tranny is too high in the back, but it gives a vague notion of where everything will be when it's all said and done.



      Looks to be roughly three inches clearance on the driver's side between the head and the firewall.



      Oil pan is sitting on the crossmember right now. It needs to come up and go back a little.



      The AC lines are going to be a problem. Here the back of the compressor is within 1/8" of the engine stand, and the lines add another inch or so to the length. I may have to get rid of the front mounting bolt and drill a new mount hole a little further back after I notch the frame.



      There's a couple of inches or so clearance on the passenger side, but I may have to adjust the AC box to clear a little. It shouldn't take much, anyhow.



      Here's what I mean on the engine needing to move backwards a little, I don't like it being that close to the rear edge of the crossmember.



      Different view of the engine-firewall clearance.



      If I feel motivated on Tuesday I'll get started on the plate mounts to adapt the LS1 to the stock 350 frame stands. I'll need to just drill the holes for the LS1 side, and let the engine tell me where the rubber mounts need to go. I also need to measure the tranny angle to adjust it correctly - but not until the engine is in the right place.

    16. #16
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      The test fit of the engine showed that if the frame mounts stay where they were for the 396, the back edge of the accessories will all hit the mounts.

      Came up with the brilliant idea to move the mounts back.

      Of course, the first step in that is to pull the engine back out (sigh). Did that a couple of weeks ago. No pics, I'm sure you know what pulling an engine looks like (if not, refer back to the update where I pulled the 396).

      Now that the engine is out, took the frame mounts off. With those out, now would be the time to clean up and paint the frame and do the front suspension.

      Unfortunately, garages that are not in active use get filled with crap that just gets in the way. These mattresses will be leaving soon, I hope.



      Frame mounts off, steering box removed, idler and center link gone, tie-rods gone (well, one of them -- the driver's side didn't want to come off and for some reason the brake backing is in the way of the pickle fork this time).



      Once the mattresses are gone, I can move the car over a foot or so and take the rest of the front suspension off to rework. With that off, I'll wirebrush the whole frame and get some primer and paint on it.


    17. #17
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      Proof-of-concept of the new motor mounts. The mattresses and most of the other crap is gone, so time to get back to work.

      You'd seen, if you've been following, that the steel plate mounts extended too far forward and interfered with the accessories. I pulled the motor out and turned the frame mounts around so they were facing the opposite direction, and moved the steel plates back and turned them around. It seems to have worked pretty well.

      Example. Ignore the white crap on the frame, it's the residue from oven cleaner (trying to get the grease off). I'll need to do some sort of flush/countersunk bolt with the rear plate mounts since the mount will interfere otherwise.



      Plenty of clearance from the crossmember.



      Pass side. Clears the starter, too.



      Butted against the top of what's left of the tranny tunnel. I'll have to cut and create a little more free space.



      Transmission is HIGH in the car. I'm going to have to remove the rest of the tunnel all the way back to clear the driveshaft. A post on pro-touring.com (you'll have to do your own search there) suggested 2 degrees up at the rear of the tranny. I'm not quite there yet, looks like I'm more like 1 up. After I open the front of the tunnel up a little more I should be able to adjust better.
      2021-05-11 edit: Down, not up. This was too high in the rear.



      View from under the car. The crossmember remains the lowest point - the pan is at least half an inch to an inch above it.



      I pulled all that expanding foam crap off the sides of the cowl. As expected, much rust damage was found.



      The flat part on the front seems like it'd be easy to fabricate, not sure if the sides are reproduced or not. Hope so.



      Passenger side cowl is even worse than the driver's side. The volume of leaves I got out of here is quite impressive. I'll have to do some sort of cowl screens when this is fixed.



      Alternate view.



      Engine is not quite level.



      Somewhere along the way, I've cracked my power steering pulley. That sucks, since I've already replaced it once.



      I also got all the grease off part of the frame, anyway - mainly with a single-edge razor blade. Sure does look like I'm going to have a lot of room in front of the engine... you can just barely see the bottom of the balancer pulley at the top, and the radiator support mounts are at the bottom left. Still need to take a wire brush to all this, and to clean up the rest of the frame to this level.



      I'm OK with notching the frame to clear the alternator or compressor. However, my major remaining concern is with the AC compressor -- it is possible that the compressor will interfere with one of the lower control arm mounts; in that case, my only possible fix would be to get some alternate accessory brackets - which is more money than I'm really interested in spending. Tomorrow is other car-task day -- I've got to do front and rear brakes on the Camaro, front brakes on the wife's car, and maybe if I'm still feeling motivated at that point, I'll tackle the dead power window motor in the Camaro. Once all that's done, I'll start fitting the accessories to see what does and does not clear, and where and how much notching will be needed.

    18. #18
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      The alternator fits. There will be no notching of the frame required here. That's a huge relief... there's a couple of inches free there.



      Not quite so lucky on the compressor. It's not much of a notch required -- maybe one inch by three inches, and most of that is to clear the lines (and give room to remove/replace them).



      I'll end up cutting at the silver lines. I could always clearance just enough so the lines didn't rub, where I'd have to remove the compressor to connect or disconnect them, but that'd be cheesy.



      The lines themselves would take 1 1/4 inches of clearance, and that's just the thickness.. you'd want some wiggle room too (got to get a wrench in there to tighten)



      Really didn't want to cut the fuel line off (funny, I don't mind notching the frame, but I don't want to cut this); took some persuading with a hammer to get it to scoot over enough to clear the compressor.



      Next steps: The motor mounts are just mocked in there; they need to be firmly attached so I can get the mounts lined up perfectly. Driver's side is not so bad, pass side is horrible -- I was only able to get two bolts in, and they're not tight at all; and the rubber mount is not bolted to the frame mount correctly, I didn't have a long enough bolt. Once I've got the mounts mocked sufficiently, it'll be time to take the suspension out and get to notchin'. Frame cleanup and paint would follow.

    19. #19
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      Both mounts are done (if not tightened down yet). I've yet to get the pan-head allen-key bolts (M10-25) and the countersink to put the back plate-to-engine bolts in, but the holes are all in the right place. Pics and measurements to come once everything is complete.



      Engine is level.



      Happy to announce that the AC box fits without modifications. It's tight, but it fits.</td></tr>



      Alternate view.



      In accordance with this thread, I've got about a 2 1/2 degree nose-down angle on the engine. That really lifts the back of the tranny though.



      I will have to open up the top of the tunnel here a bit more to clear. Will likely also need to cut off that ear before worrying about creating the new tunnel.



      I can use my stock transmission crossmember, sorta. It's a few inches too low, but properly centered and the distance fore/aft works.



      Yeah, it's about 4.25 inches too low. Not yet sure how to work around this.
      2021-05-11 edit: (it's not)


    20. #20
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      I got a new tool:

      This should help with some of the stuff I've got in mind here. First thing you do when you get a welder - you build a welding cart:



      (yes, I should have built the cart for the MIG when I got it -- but I just now added the gas conversion for it.)

      The cart isn't pretty, and the welds aren't that great -- but I learned a couple of fun things; the first being that it's hard to run a TIG welder while laying on the floor - one hand for the torch, one for the filler, and a third hand for the pedal... and second that while a MIG will give you sunburn if you use it a lot without protective clothing, if your inner arm is exposed to the light from a TIG arc you'll sunburn in a matter of 30 seconds. Oh, and thirdly -- inner arm sunburns are bothersome.

      Not that you came to read about sunburns.
      The weather here in Dallas has been beautiful -- 60s/70s in the day, which has given me a chance to get out and do stuff during the semester break. This week/month/year's plan: Finish the engine mounts, finalize the engine position, and then pull it all apart to clean up, notch, and paint the frame. This will lead into the front suspension work, and the cowl rust repair.

      So here we go...


      The three degree nose down angle I had in my last update was wrong. Should be three degrees tail down. This fits much nicer.



      All it'll take is about a 1/4 inch spacer -- here's a chunk of metal acting as one, but I'll likely mount it between the rubber mount and the transmission instead of under.



      A minor panic; the plate on the top of the tranny reflects that I'm about 8 degrees leaning towards the pass side... but taking a measure of the bottom of the oilpan shows me to be level (no pic of that, magnetic angle gauge doesn't stick to aluminum pan)



      Engine mount complete and waiting to drop into place. Countersunk the holes with a big drill bit and the adjustible stop on the press.



      Pass side mount also complete. Note that it's bolted to the frame -- I didn't, when it came time to free the engine. You have to pull really hard to get it free when it's still bolted in.



      I took no pictures while removing the engine. The frame stands got a little bent up -- the pass side because of that bolt, the driver's because the engine got caught on it while I was pulling it out. Then it became all about stripping the suspension off. Here's the starting point for that.



      Put the engine on the wheel dolly -- this really works well for moving it around the garage.



      You get no pics of the suspension coming apart, because I was busy taking the suspension off. Ball joints on both sides wanted to be argumentative. Here's the driver's side, stripped. The hard line for the brakes didn't want to come apart, to the extent that even with a flare wrench it started to strip... so I cut the hard line (I'll be replacing it anyway, and the rubber lines are relatively new)



      This pile of parts, minus the wheel, now belong to the Chevelle.



      Pass side, with the cut lines for the frame notch. Nylon ties holding the fuel line out of the way -- not sure why I don't just cut it off.



      Replaced the bolts on the frame stands. Still need to drill the rear two holes on each side.



      Oddly, I had no bump stop on the pass side.



      Driver's side frame rail is in pretty good shape.



      Pass side -- not so much. Between battery acid, plus an impact, it's seen better days. Will need to do some measuring to make sure it's close to square.



      Here's the stopping point for the day. Next: Wire brush! Implement enamel primer! Possibly welding up the unused holes in the frame! And maybe some adjustible spring thingies!


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