Fabrication begins

For readers who know what they are doing, now is probably a great time to stop reading this blog.  Many poor choices are about to be made, holes burnt in steel instead of welds, and other egregious mistakes.  For all others, read on.

I ran to my local hardware store and bought up a bunch of square tube.  I broke out my sweet low buck flux core welder, my carpenter square, and my Harbor Freight 3″ electric cutoff wheel.  I know the air tools are better but I don’t have enough air to run them and usually don’t spend enough time in the garage to make it worthwhile.

I began by setting the factory radiator support in place and measuring every fixed point I could find.  I transferred the vertical points to the floor with a plumb bob and masking tape.

You’ll see in some of the pictures I marked up the factory radiator support.  I was very torn at the time and was strongly considering cutting up the factory support and using it.  Ultimately I didn’t think I could make it work.  In the end I think my homemade support is holding up fine.  If my booger welds break I’ll post the evidence.

I bought a full polyurethane bushing kit for the car from Prothane.  I trimmed down the rad support bushings so they fit into the C-channel that makes the base of my fabbed up rad support.

Fabrication continues – radiator support

These pictures show the set up I used to hold the top of the radiator.  I had to come in low from the fender supports so I could stay under the turbo intakes so I built a couple of upside down J’s to support the top of the radiator.  The center section is aluminum and removable.  People think I made it removable so I can pull the engine more easily.  In reality the hardware store didn’t sell a single piece long enough to get from end to end.

There’s a bit of cold side piping being fitted at this time as well, but it’s not enough to warrant it’s own blog post.

Fabrication – Intercooler

Here’s where I invented the mount for the intercooler.  It just kind of hangs out there in front of the radiator.  I was a lot less worried about it then the radiator–I’m not going to melt anything if the intercooler falls out of the car but the radiator is a different story.  I used a bit of squared tube and bent up some 5/16″ rod for bracing.  Enjoy all the great welds, flux, and generally bad ideas.

Exhausting Work – Part One

What a hilarious pun, amirite?  Exhausting??  Get it?  I’m about to work on the exhaust?  Dry your laugh tears friends, it’s time for booger welds.

I started by welding the four bolt t4 exhaust flanges onto my 3″ tubes.  I bought the straight pipe from the local hotrod shop, Adam’s Service Center, and bought the mandrel bent bend kits from eBay.  I had watched a fair amount of videos on YouTube before attempting this feat and was pretty nervous but it turned out to be easier than I expected.  I’m not saying I’m good–I’m saying I built a short exhaust so it turned out to be easier than expected.

My technique involved bolting the straight stick up to the turbo.  Then I tacked a short straight section onto a bend.  I ziptied the bend to the straight stick to a) hold it in place and b) it gave me a nice straight line to mark with my sharpie.  I cut everything in a 14″ cutoff saw (good guess that it was a Harbor Freight but wrong–it’s a Hitachi I borrowed from Dad but I put a Harbor Freight blade on it).  After I cut both pieces I put a big giant booger weld in two spots on the butt joint, then fitted again.  This let me bend the joint a bit to make up for bad cuts, bad lines, bad welds, and bad ideas.

Some of the stuff I had to look out for–I reassembled the front suspension (minus the springs and shocks) so I could bottom the suspension and make sure my exhaust cleared the A-arms at full jounce.  I put the tire back to check for clearance when at steering lock.  At the time I was planning on running the 14″ slotted mags that came with the car but in the end I put 15″ skinnies on the front and now they hit after all.  Live and learn.

Exhausting Work minus the puns

I bounced around a lot of ideas for getting the exhaust the rest of the way out of the car.  My first idea was to run big sidepipes.  When I was a kid all the coolest cars ran sidepipes.  Unfortunately like disco, suede shirts, and the Brady Bunch, sidepipes died in the seventies.  I have a friend that who should have a job as an insult comic, he’s that good.  And the hell of it is, he’s speaking the truth.  What are you supposed to say if someone tells you that you can’t weld for shit and they are right?  You’re supposed to suck it up.  In this case my insulting friend explained in no uncertain terms that sidepipes suck and I would too if I put them on the car.  This is the same guy that talked me into turbos instead of a big block Chevy in the first place and it was good advice.

My second idea was to run through the fender right behind the front fender.  Put one of those cool chrome rings around it with some purposeful looking rivets and such.  It was going to be awesome.  After assessing my ability to cut and weld pipe, I realized it was way too hard to run around the body mount that sticks into that space on second generation f-bodies.  I gave up.

In the end, I snuck out under the pinch weld behind the front wheel.  It’s way too low (still above the scrub line) but that’s where it is and that’s where it’s staying.  I stuck a 4″ flex section in there for good measure in case I bottom the pipes out.

Screwing up the Hood

Since I pulled out the whole radiator support there is no longer a latch for the hood.  I also cut a hunk of the hood out to make room for the intercooler.  So a new latch needs created.  The right route would have been to put on a fiberglass hood and all those cool quarter turn fittings but that would have not been very Fireturd-like.  What is Fireturd-like is to buy a pair of fancy Chinese knock-off hood latches, so that’s what I bought.  I did all the cutting with my Harbor Freight 3″ cutoff wheel and a swear jar.  Watch and learn kids, school is in session.

Getting ready to rip it all apart again

It was at this point that I mistakenly thought that all my fab work was done.  I was mistaken.  I am also ‘rammy’ and wanted to get the car done so I decided now was the time to tear it down for paint.  I took some pictures to help remember where everything went, then began disassembling, tagging and bagging bolts as I went.

Cleaning and paint prep

I got the motor and trans pulled back out, then separated the subframe and began cleanup.  Not pictured was prepping for the trans crossmember modification.  The TH400 I got is longer then the TH350 that the car came with but the mounts are the same.  I slid my existing crossmember back a bit further and landed the trans mount in it.  From under the car I drilled a hole up through the floor right by where the crossmember landed on the subframe.  From inside the car I cut about a 4″ square through the floor and then tack welded the crossmember to the subframe.  After I was happy I folded the section of floor I’d cut back down and welded it solid.

I cleaned up the subframe with nothing but drill mounted wire brushes and hate.

Suspension work

Burning out bushings sucks.  It’s very effective, but it sucks.  It smells to the high heavens and creates rivulets of molten stank-rubber dribbling all over your already filthy garage.  Your neighbors will ask around to see who is burning trash.  My advice is lie like a rug and throw the weirdo from three houses down under the bus.  “Yeah, Weird Frank had a big pile in his back yard, I bet he’s the source of the stink.”  Close your garage doors and don’t inhale.  I tried the trick of a hundred holes around the perimeter of the bushing.  Nada.  I got to hole number 17 or so when I snapped the bit off in the bushing.  Time to bring out the big guns.  The hot guns.  The propane.

You’ll see in the last pic I sandblasted the A-arms.  Being without a sandblaster I remedied the situation at my favorite tool store.  If you guessed Harbor Freight, give yourself a prize.  Not too big a prize though–it shouldn’t have been that hard to guess.  Free advice–don’t bother with the gravity feed sandblasters, they suck and your sand has to be perfect.  I went with the smallest pressurized tank sandblaster they had.  Also, you get sand everywhere.  EVERYWHERE.  You know at the beach when that big wave wipes you out and you stand up with two pounds of sand in your crack?  Yes.  That much sand.

There’s another pic in the series that shows the new bushings.  I went with Prothane simply because I had used them on my Corvette and they fit and I knew they’d work.  I went with red because racecar.

Disaster strikes

If you read the blog in chronological order, you may remember seeing a post where I alluded to being a lot more careful about letting water get into your engine when cleaning it.  That’s called foreshadowing kids, it’s used in high literature like this blog.  Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, then this shit–high literature.

I take advice from the internet with a grain of salt.  You should too with the exception of this blog.  You can take this crap to the bank brother.  Anyway, the advice from the internet had a repeating pattern–you’ll push open the stock clapped-out valve springs with boost so replace them.  So valve springs are on the list.  I figured I’d pull the heads to do the springs rather than do the ol’ compressed-air-through-the-spark-plug-hole trick.  That would give me an excuse to put in a big cam to make sure that it barely idles with that wonderful chop that old school car guys love.

So I pop the heads and to my surprise, cylinder one is a mess.  Rust, some weird black goop, more rust, and plenty of hate and broken dreams.  I borrowed Dad’s trusty hone, chucked it up in my drill, and hit it.  While it got rid of the surface rust, it left a pitted and scarred cylinder wall behind.  Ugh.  Machine work is going to be 600-700 dollars easily.  Longtime readers may remember that I only paid $500 for the whole engine, so why put more into an object that I will most likely blow up with exploding turbos or out-of-control boost?  With my new-found attitude towards the state of the engine (I’m going to blow it up anyway since I don’t know what I’m doing) I made a trip to my sandpaper drawer and went to town.  After I had sanded enough to remove all the pitting I hit it with the hone again to crosshatch it.  I cleaned everything up with magnets, a shopvac, and shop air.  Notice that the phrase “then I removed the piston” is markedly missing, that’s because I did all this with the piston in situ.  That’s right–I ruined a cylinder with sandpaper, ran a hone down it, and used the words “in situ”, all without removing the piston from the bore.

I cleaned the block mating surface with a razor blade and cleaned the aluminum heads with brake clean, shop towels, and elbow grease.  I slapped in the new cam using one of the water pump bolts, dropped the lifters back in, new Fel-Pro gaskets, Speedmaster head studs, and danced a victory jig.

For those trying to learn, I went with a Tick Performance stage 2 5.3 turbo cam kit which comes with PAC660 dual valve springs, and 7.4″ pushrods.