My original cost saving idea was to buy special dashboard filler and four way stretchable pleather and recover the whole dash.  My honest friend told me it was a dumb idea but I showed him.  I showed him all right–I showed him he was correct.  I broke down and bought the cheapest plastic dash cover I could find.  The result was far superior to anything I was going to do with filler and pleather.

I bought a factory second f-body gauge cluster from Intellitronix via eBay.  It’s slick and it was easy to install.  If you’re running a full on ECU like me it is recommended you run two sets of sensors, one for the gauge cluster and one for the ECU.


This was a turning point.  There are moments that stand out in your life.  I remember the births of my kids vividly.  And to have the vehicle that you built spring to life is right up there with that.  Send the hatemail if you must but I stand by my statement.  It makes you that proud.  And here is my moment.  February 28th, 2017 at 6:49PM EST.  HOT GOLLY GOOD NIGHT PIPES.

This demonstrates the beauty of fuel injection by the way.  Before I even tried to start the engine I fired every injector via the computer to verify the ECU, the wiring, the tuning software, etc.  I fired every spark plug.  Since the engine has a reluctor the timing is preset except for the amount of advance I program in for cranking.  I set up my camera, crawled into the car, hit the starter, and it started.  I was shocked.  When I was a kid I watched my father crank a fully rebuilt 1957 Oldsmobile J2 for two days straight with barely a cough.  But here my 141,000 mile clapped out LM7 fired up immediately.

Confession time – I have a video of my Corvette starting up “for the first time” after I built and installed the 383.  I actually had cranked and started the engine before making my son come out and film the amazing “first start”.  So for this build I decided I was going to film on my own so I could keep my failures to myself.  Let’s not get carried away here with this confession and assume I was going to be completely honest–I’d planned on filming each start attempt individually so I could either show a “first start” video or I could show the actual ten failed attempts before the first start.  Phew, it feels good getting that seven year old lie off my chest to make room for the new stack of lies.

Thanks to the magic of fuel injection I needed no lies.  It was as if He-Man himself had entered my dingy garage, pulled out his sword and yelled “I HAVE THE POWER” and then by the power of Fire and Turd brought forth life in my homebrewed Chinese monstrosity.  Thanks He-Man!

Ramming speed

At the end of 2016 I was in full-on ramjet mode, just maximum rammyness to get the car running.  I had just drawn a line in the sand to have hot pipes by the end of the year.  I missed.  I had made a deal with my wife that I’d put in a second floor laundry in 2017.  Like any good husband I reneged on my offer and came up with a new offer, if you just let me get the engine running I’ll go full speed on the laundry room.  Once the pipes got hot I did in fact begin working on the laundry room whenever my wife was looking.  Luckily she has a job too (you can’t live in the lap of luxury like this without two incomes) so she isn’t always around.

So while the cat is away the mice will play with Chinese car parts.  My new goal was “vehicle moving under its own power while staying under wife-radar”.  I prepped and painted the steering column and a pair of two inch drop spindles for the front.  In the meantime I had ordered the wheels, tires, shifter, custom driveshaft, and on and on.  Good times.

A note on the spindles – I bought McGaughys 2″ drop spindles for 1970-1978 F-body.  I bolted everything up and found that the brake pads were tight up against the rotors on the inside.  In the end I put the factory spindles back on because the front end was too low.  One of these days I have to figure out how much I need to shim to be able to use the drop spindles.

Replacement Waterpump

I had planned on bending my top radiator hose a lot and possibly letting it rub on the hood in the interest of extreme cheapness.  Truck engine waterpump outlets go straight up while car engine waterpump outlets go straight front.  Straight front works wayyyy better, so I ponied up the cash for a cheap knockoff Camaro waterpump and a set of ICT Billet 3/4″ spacers.  The spacers are necessary to get the waterpump out even with the truck harmonic balancer.

I also bought a nice little thermostat jobbie that let me put a first generation small block Chevy thermostat in (way cheaper) and it had a straight neck to boot.  A note for anyone thinking about doing this, don’t.  There is a great article here http://www.pirate4x4.com/tech/billavista/Cooling/ that laid it all out for me.  I used the article extensively to figure out what I had done wrong.  The bottom line is that you must run an LS style thermostat or you must block the bypass built into the waterpump and run no thermostat.  You can’t run a 1st gen SBC thermostat.  Well, you can, but you are going to run hot.  Really, really hot.

Wheels and Tires

Pictured are my Jegs SSR Mags/Vision 561 Sport Mag wheels.  I like them, and they were priced right.  The fronts are 15×4 with 1 3/4″ backspacing, the rears are 15×8 with 4 1/2″ backspacing.  I originally ordered 5 1/2″ backspacing for the rear.  I based this on a couple of vague measurements and some guesses.  I figured if I went with a ton of backspacing I could put spacers on to bring the wheel out.  The wheels came first, I excitedly opened up one of the big rears and rushed to the garage and slapped the wheel onto the brake drum.  To my dismay the rim hit the leaf spring.  Based on the advertised section width of the Nitto drag radials I was going to run I needed another 1 1/4 of backspacing to stay off the leaf spring.  Disaster.

Jegs has a great return policy, so back to Jegs went the wheels.  I only had to pay shipping (it was a $34 mistake on my part).  Jegs shipped me the 4 1/2″ backspacing wheels, problem solved.

The front tires are Nexen SB802 165/80R15’s and the rears are Nitto NT555R 275/60R15 drag radials.  I used the tire machine at the local hotrod shop, Adam’s Service Center.  I thought I’d be smart and laid rags over the claws that hold the wheel.  Bad idea–the rags ended up stuck in the bead as it seated on the rim.  I had to let all the air out and dismount the tire to get the rags loose.  Luckily nobody saw me and nobody reads this site so my secret should be safe forever.

Pump the brakes

Sorry that’s just another pun.  I didn’t actually pump the brakes, I was still full speed ahead.  Well, as full speed ahead as you can be without making your wife aware that you’re aren’t focusing on your home improvements as promised.

So the big hotness here is that I put my Viking A205-350rk coilovers on the car.  The Vikings are double adjustable shocks, the 350rk is a 350lb spring rate coil spring.  Because you change where the weight of the vehicle rides on the A-arm you must either replace your lower A-arms with units designed for coilovers or you must reinforce your existing lower A-arms.  I bought a 1/8″ sheet steel and took it my Dad’s garage so I could use his plasma cutter.  I cut a pair of circles out and had my future son-in-law stick weld the plates into the spring cups in my lower A-arms.  Then I cut out the hole for the bottom of the shock and drilled the mounting holes.  So far it is holding fine and I’ll update if one of the coilovers suddenly tears through my plates.

Also pictured are my rotors and their heat shields.  I took a picture so I could ask around on whether or not I needed to retain the heat shields.  Since I couldn’t get a straight answer from either my friends or the internet I chose to keep the heatshields.  I cleaned them up with my big knotted wire wheel and hit them with black high temperature brake paint courtesy of Autozone.

Wheels on the Ground

Another very exciting moment.  The car hadn’t been sitting on the ground for over two years.  Here it is sitting on the ground.  I noticed that I couldn’t push the car front or back even though there was no driveshaft.  I chalked it up to having a brake too tight somewhere and promptly ignored it since there was still plenty of other work that needed done.

In this picture rear is on the factory leaf springs on a 2″ block.


This is Jegs.  I’m not sure who owned him, what his actual name was, or where eventually wondered off to, but when he was hanging around with me he was Jegs.

He wondered into my garage while I was beating on something with a hammer and started meowing and rubbing my legs until I stopped and petted him.  I never saw the direction he came from, and when I left the garage at night and chased him out he’d just sit outside our back door meowing.  He was my garage buddy for about six weeks.  Some time mid August he just stopped showing up.  Hopefully he’s in some happy home somewhere instead of a dirty garage.  Hats off to you, Jegs.  I miss you buddy (sniffle).

Disaster Strikes Again

Restoring cars to their original condition is challenging.  A little more challenging is trying to fit parts that were never intended for the car.  I finally got around to trying to figure out what kept me from being able to push the car.  I put the car back in the air and pulled the wheels off.  I had decided that the problem was the front brakes dragging since I had identified that as a problem when I was assembling everything.  I put the factory spindles back to fix the problem.  I pulled the drums off and double checked them as well.  Drums back on, wheels back on, put the car down, it still won’t move.  #Rage.

Back in the air and spin the tires–the rears won’t budge.  I take one wheel off and can spin it’s drum but the opposite wheel doesn’t turn at all.  I take that wheel off and now everything spins like it’s supposed to.  Stick the wheels back on and crawl under the car and low and behold, disaster.  The shock mounts are jammed into the tires.  UGHHH.

For now, I ripped off the shock mounts and said bad words in their general direction, then I went inside to internet for a solution.

Taking a Seat

I autocrossed for ten or so years until I got bit by the Fireturd bug.  I started out with a VR6 Jetta, then stepped up to a Chevy Cobalt SS/SC for more torque out of the corners.  I ended up buying the Corvette to make the autocrossing more interesting (and boy is it wayyyy more interesting with rear wheel drive and no traction control).  The point of the story is that I bought a set of cheap race seats for the Cobalt (the factory seats have very little side bolster and fat me kept sliding out of the seat).  I found my cheap race seats on Craigslist and they came with some sort of home-made half butchered slides.  I butchered them further to jam them in the Cobalt and completed the butchering to get them crammed into the Fireturd.

The Cobalt factory seats clipped in the front and bolted in the rear.  I figured if it was good enough for General Motors it was good enough for me, so I welded up a couple of clips and welded them to the floor, then fabbed tiny legs for the back of the seat frames and bolted them to the floor.