87 Monte SS - Restoration
Welcome to the disassembly portion of my little adventure.
Disassembly - Day 1
Rather than simply dating each entry, I decided to try and keep track of the actual number of hours I have invested in this project. To that end, I've created a "Project-O-Meter" that I will include at the end of each session of wrenching. If nothing else, it may serve to give someone else contemplating such a project some idea of the time commitment involved. Lunch breaks and parts-runs are NOT included.
I really got quite a bit accomplished during my first session, although it may not look like it at first glance. A project of this magnitude includes much more than actual "wrench time."
In actuality, day one included driving over to my father-in-law's garage (stopping briefly to load up on ziplock bags and scoring a couple of new sharpies to document the tear down) going to fetch the engine and really important stuff... like stopping for lunch.
That's a lot to cram into one Saturday, nonetheless the meter is running, ruthlessly keeping track of just the time spent "on task" as many teachers like to say.
Not really a whole lot to say about pulling the bumper off. Other than the bumper "pistons" had one hidden bolt apiece, accessible through a hole in the top of the frame.
The bumper cover bolts were pretty much a no-brain-er, being relatively easy to get loose with the air-ratchet. If you've never used one, they're a great time saver, but be prepared with a breaker-bar or standard ratchet to break loose the really stubborn bolts.
One minor gripe. I sure wish the General (GM) had used SAE or Metric bolts when they assembled this car... NOT BOTH! I can't count the number of times we looked at a bolt, thought it was a 10mm size only to find out it was a 1/2 inch... or the other way around. Sheesh, what a pain in the old rear-end. I think maybe there was an explosion at the plant one day, you know, where the nuts and bolts were stored... and they used whatever they picked up!
Before I could take the fenders off, the hood had to come off. Since the original LS hood looked like someone dropped a bowling ball on it, I may use the white SS hood instead. It's got plenty of surface rust, but no dents or dings. I troweled on a thick coat of bondo (the previous owners attempt was peeling like an onion), to fill the dent and stop the rust, until I could make a proper repair.
Since I plan on installing some sort of ram-air/cowl-induction system, I'll use which ever hood will look the best. Since I have the luxury of two to work with, I won't feel the pressure of possibly destroying my only hood. But that's a decision that will wait until all the mechanical work has been accomplished.
As with the hood, so it went with the fenders. There were two bolts on the radiator support, one tall spacer-style bolt on the cowl near the lower corner of the windshield and six around the perimeter of the fender lip, that attach the inner fender liner to the outer fender. The last bolt is on the bottom edge of the fender near the rocker panel seam.
Since the previous owner slapped a set of fat tires and wheels on with no regard to offset, both of these inner fender liners have holes rubbed through them where the tires would hit during a tight turn.
Fortunately, my white SS has undamaged fender liners which I plan on swapping over during re-assembly. Hmm, I don't recall these sheet metal reinforcement panels being part of the inner fender wells of my SS.
Disassembly continues. The only snag here was the antenna. Fortunately my father-in-law had the special tool needed to spin the nut off the base of the antenna mast. There are also two sheet metal fasteners that you must remove before the antennal will come out.
There's a neat little quick-disconnect in the antenna cable that makes removal much easier. You could probably even leave the antenna base alone and just remove the mast before pulling the fender. If you wanted to. I guess.
Perhaps you're wondering about the interchangeability of the front fenders between the LS vs. SS models. Short answer is, they don't. At least not without a significant amount of work and sheet metal fabrication skills. The red arrows in this shot is what the seam looks like on the LS model fenders from the inside.
The blue arrows represent the plastic clips (installed from the outside), that cleverly disguise the seam with chrome trim. And yes, that is rust you see along the seam. Proof even a southern car isn't immune, although this is easily savable at this point.
Gee, you'd never know there was a seam underneath that bright work now would you? The only explanation I can come up with is that the factory stamped out "universal" front fenders for Chevy Monte Carlos.
Then, whichever model the fender was being prepped for, determined which lower front edge would be mounted. Monte LS... weld on the standard lower corner and keep the assembly line moving. The SS was probably assembled on a different line and each finished fender would go to the appropriate line.
Pretty clever solution for the factory, kind of a pain in the butt for the restorer.
There you have it. Day one of my project. It was a big day with lots of "off task" time spent, including fetching the new engine from the UPS loading dock.
Disassembly - Day 2
I jumped right in by grabbing a pair of channel-lock pliers, sliding underneath and loosening the petcock. I spun it to full open and pulled the radiator cap. While that was busy making a big mess (despite my nice wide drain pain), I pulled both inner fender liners and set them aside. I also disconnected the A/C lines (no freon... big surprise), removed the condenser, and capped all the fittings to keep them clean.
Once the radiator was empty, I disconnected the upper and lower hoses as well as the transmission cooling lines. The shroud comes in two pieces. I removed the top half and then pulled the radiator, taking care to keep track of the rubber isolators the radiator sits in. Boy can those babies bounce!
I found this nasty little surprise waiting for me when I pulled the passenger side inner fender. Obviously, I performed a considerable public service pulling this "accident waiting to happen" off the road. This is why I am taking the no-stone-left-unturned approach. The last thing I want to do is drop in a new engine and take off down the highway.
Amazingly enough, the brake line on the driver's side was in much better shape. No matter, they'll both be replaced along with everything else that's deteriorated over time. Just some of the fun things you'll find playing around with a 22 year old car.
This shot contains both good news and bad news. The good news (right arrow), is that the cruise control has its own separate loom of wires/hoses, so keeping this feature will be relatively easy to do. The bad news (left arrow), is that the master cylinder is leaking too. Keep in mind this is just the front half of the car. Who knows what I'll find when I move around back.
Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound, as the saying goes. I have this image in my head of a little "mental accountant" and each time I make a discovery like this I automatically hear old-fashioned adding-machine sounds. But hey, the car's paid for!
This shot shows the main wire loom connector that goes through the firewall. One half contains all the lighting, horn and ground wires for the front of the car.
The other half contains most of the electricals related to the engine and its various senders and sensors. However, since the previous owner attended the "hack & chop" school of wiring, I may end up swapping out the whole thing with my SS loom.
This is one of the reasons I'm leaning towards retaining the factory engine computer and all its sensors. This will enable me to remove the hacked-up LS harness, replacing it with my factory SS harness.
This would enable me to retain the factory computer which controls the timing and carburetor. On the flip side, going "old school" by removing the computer and replacing the distributor/carburetor with non-electronic versions has its own appeal. Decisions, decisions.
Granted, the extra wires add to the clutter under the hood, but the idea of stealth is the big lure. I can pop the hood and have the look of a stock 305, while in reality it's a 350. Since the on-board computer has no concept of cubic inches (and it's already in place), I could just keep it as is. However, since the AIR pump is MIA and who knows what effect this will have on the computer.
Here's a shot of the loom itself after carefully threading out of all the various attaching clips that ran along the inner fender wells and the radiator support. We've got the headlamp bulbs, horn connectors, signal light bulbs and side marker lights. By carefully removing this loom I may be able to sell it off to someone else restoring an LS model. Eventually I'll coil it all up and drop it into a Ziploc bag.
I've actually got a bunch of different sizes of these babies. The larger "freezer bags" even have a white area for labeling. By documenting everything with Mr. Sharpie, re-assembly should be a breeze, on that distant day in the future when I begin to reverse the tear-down procedure.
Ah, yet another rubber item which is going to need replacement. I have no idea exactly what's involved in replacing this particular piece, but it certainly cannot stay in its current condition.
Since I plan on replacing the LS steering column with the one out of my SS, I'm not too worried about this. Famous last words. It's been quite awhile since I was under the hood of my SS, so that boot may not be any better than this one.
Finally... after disconnecting all the wires, hoses, clips, cables and linkages, we were able to begin the lifting process. The key here is to go slowly and keep checking for interferences each time you give the hoist a pump.
This is where a helper becomes indispensable. Give a pump or two, looking and listening for any interferences the whole time. Slowly but surely the old engine came up and out of the chassis.
At this point we finally got the engine high enough to clear the cross member. The cross member wasn't the only obstacle. We pulled the distributor early on, that enabled us to tilt the engine enough to clear everything else.
Believe it or not, the motor mounts on the chassis were a bigger hurdle. The arrow shows the oil filter which was the lowest object on the driver's side. I may have to leave the oil filter off my new engine for an easier install.
Then, on the passenger side, we had the starter causing a problem. Again, by going slowly we were able to jockey the motor enough to gain the clearance we needed.
Also in this shot you'll notice the "load leveler" which we used in conjunction with the engine hoist. While not necessary (I've done many swaps without one), it's easier than pushing down on the tranny to gain clearance.
Smooth sailing now, we were free and clear of the engine bay! Not sure where this transmission was leaking, but it was working fine and will be sold off to help further finance the project.
My plan is to use the recently rebuilt 200-4-R tranny that's in my SS. I had only put a couple hundred miles (if that), on it before retiring it from daily driver status.
Oh and the little red thing sticking out of the transmission? Why that's the latest scientific breakthrough... a transmission plug! What a difference having this gizmo on hand made towards limiting the traditional engine-swap spills.
By the time we grabbed some dinner and got back to the garage, it was getting dark, so we broken out the drop lights to finish what we'd started. It's always an anxious time until you get the engine back down onto terra firma.
Not seen in this shot is the Harbor Freight dolly that we delicately balanced the engine/transmission on. I'll buy my father-in-law a new one if this one gets totally destroyed.
It was around 9:30pm by the time we got the tools picked up and I'd stowed what I could (basically the whole front clip), in the bed of my pickup for transport to my house. It was almost midnight by the time I hit the sack.
Day two and it was a day-and-a-half worth of work! Our best day yet, with lots of productivity resulting in the extraction of the tired old 305 and transmission.
Day 3 - More Disassembly
Day three dawned cloudy and threatening, with the thermometer easily topping 90 degrees in the shade. Of course, by the time we got out act together, the sun was out in earnest.
The first step, naturally enough was to get the leaky boulder of an old engine out of the way. Once again, my nice, sleek ARE tonneau cover was a thorn in my side. I'd neglected to take into account the lift height of the tonneau cover vs. the height the engine hoist needed to clear the tailgate.
That problem necessitated the removal of the tonneau cover support struts, which enabled us to lift it high enough to clear the engine hoist boom.
Once we cleared that hurdle, it was time to maneuver my truck underneath the suspended engine. Check out the height of that boom. I don't even think a camper cap (which I've been looking for), would've helped out much.
In the end, we tossed an old tire in the back of my pickup and slowly lowered the engine down into it. This worked great, providing clearance for the oil pan as well as side support. We broke out the ratcheting tie-downs once again and secured the engine for its trip home.
Everything went smoothly and by the time we'd finished loading, anchoring and moving my truck out of the way, it was time for lunch.
When we re-grouped after lunch, we began one of the more mundane tasks associated with this project. Degreasing and power-washing. If you're only doing an engine swap, this wouldn't be necessary, depending on how detail oriented you are, or how much of a hurry you're in to have your ride back in action.
However, since my ultimate goal is a high-performance street machine, I want it to look right. Since the frame, firewall and suspension are all going to be detailed this was a necessary first step. They usually edit this part out of all the hot rod build-up shows you see on cable. But boy does the time add up.
While the de greaser was busy doing its thing, we went into the house for a beverage-break.
Whenever I've degreased an engine in the past, I usually broke out the garden hose to clean things off. Not this time. Enter the Coleman Clean Machine 1300! This was my first experience in using a power-washer.
Don't be fooled by the size of this machine. Although they make larger machines (which we had access to if we'd needed it), this little guy took off the grease as well as the paint that was on the frame! What more do you need?
I was so impressed by the performance of the pressure washer I'm going to be on the lookout for one the next time I'm at a flea market or garage sale.
To try and keep as much crud as possible off the cement, we rolled the front of the car onto a tarp before we began degreasing/pressure washing. Once we were satisfied with what the commercially available de greaser could do, we moved up to the next step.
First, a little kerosene for the stubborn greasy residue that remained, followed by a brisk scrubbing with a brush. As final cleanup we used some commercial pressure washer degreasing detergent, followed by some "general purpose" detergent and a final rinse.
Oh yeah, everything I could reach, got the treatment. I noticed the lower half of the plenum (which houses the heater core & A/C evaporator), was gray fiberglass. Since my color scheme will retain the stock color with a gray stripe, this gave me the idea for contrasting firewall components as well.
You never know just when inspiration will strike, but once again, if I'm going to paint it, it must be free of grease and oil as well as plain old ordinary road dirt.
Here's a shot after everything had had a chance to dry. What a difference just getting the road grime off makes! The gray brush-streaks surrounding the antenna pass through grommet seem to be some kind of sealant applied at the factory.
Just out of this shot, to the left, I discovered the factory caulking applied around the door hinges was cracked and coming off in large pieces, where they bolt to the cowl.
The doors have to come off anyway, 2 door coupes like this have heavy doors, which really takes a toll on the hinges. I'll be replacing the hinge pins and bushings at some point in the rejuvenation process.
Here's a shot of the driver's side after everything had had a chance to dry. Once everything is prepped and painted, the new engine can be dropped in. It'll be a real treat to assemble everything without grease under the fingernails and crud in the eyes.
If you look closely, you'll notice the rubber plugs (ordinary vacuum caps re-purposed), I used on the steering box to keep the water and other junk out until it can be removed and replaced with the fast-ratio SS unit.
I'll probably end up removing the power-brake booster and windshield wiper motor as well as the plenum when it comes time to paint. But that'll wait for another day.
Day 3 and it was a rather water-logged one at that! My work shoes (just an old pair of sneakers), are about as water-proof as a sieve. A real plus was getting the old engine out of our way. Now we have room to work, for what comes next.
Day 4 (9/26/09) - Still More Disassembly
Got a late start today which (in retrospect), should have predicted how the rest of the day's work would progress. I flipped my digital camera open and it promptly shut off due to dead batteries. Sigh! While my camera batteries were charging, I loaded up my truck with previously removed parts, giving us more room to maneuver around the car.
The biggest, nastiest, grungiest eyesore that you see first is the master cylinder and the power brake booster. I decided to take both of these off as a unit, simply because it was easier. I'll disassemble everything later for refinishing.
The booster seems to work fine, but there's no way I'd ever pop the hood of the finished product and show this off! Oh well, nothing a coat of paint can't fix after I remove all the rust. In fact, the master cylinder looks like a recent replacement, so I'll keep it until I deem it necessary to replace it.
I am planning on upgrading to four-wheel disk brakes (including larger front disks than the car currently has), so I'll have to wait and see. I've read mixed reports on the montecarloss website, so I'll try the stock master cylinder first and see how it performs. All the front-end components (tie rod ends, control arm bushings etc.) are going to be replaced also.
Here's an under-the-dash shot showing what needs to be disconnected prior to removal of the booster/master cylinder assembly. The yellow arrows show two of the four studs that mount the assembly to the firewall. The green arrow shows the pin connecting the brake pedal to the power brake booster input shaft.
This is actually do-able without a helper. Particularly if you leave the brake lines attached. Break them free while everything is still bolted up, but the lines help hold the assembly up while you crawl out from under the dash (removing the pliers that have been digging into your leg from your front pocket), get the crick out of your back, then you can finish removing the lines and the booster.
More of a reference picture than anything else. The red arrows denote the lines from the master cylinder. The front line has an over-sized flare nut at 1/2 inch, while the one behind it is 7/16's. The green arrow denotes the supply line to the drivers side front caliper.
As part of my upgrade, I plan on installing all new stainless steel lines throughout the car. The nice thing is that (due to the booming restoration market), there are several companies that supply these lines... pre bent! Outrageous!
You mean, no more kinking the ramrod straight lines from the local auto parts store (typically more than once)? I've done some research and the brake kit comes in at just under $200 bucks. Well worth it to never have a flare nut and line rust together permanently, (thwarting your best efforts with a wire brush and PB Blaster), only to twist off like a metal licorice whip despite your best efforts and busted knuckles.
Since my ultimate goal is to have a custom paint job, this necessitates the complete (yeah, I said the C word), disassembly/removal of all bolted-on components. To this end, the windshield wiper motor, arms and linkages are being removed. Although it appears complex, removal is relatively straight forward. By removing the two nuts shown, the motor arm can be disconnected from the linkage.
With the linkage disconnected at the motor, I popped both windshield wiper arms off their respective pivot points. If you've ever replaced your own wiper blades, this should be old hat. If it's not, you simply place the blade of a wide screwdriver under the rounded bottom edge of the arm and gently pry up.
Interestingly, I discovered a difference between the pivot mounts on the driver's side vs. the passenger side. The driver's side had the typical grooved arm that I've run across on many cars, but the passenger side had this "mini-arm" stub once I removed the larger arm. Not sure why, but it sure makes deciding where the arms go pretty much goof-proof!
In this shot, the yellow arrows show where the three mounting bolts are for the windshield wiper motor, while the green arrows show the electrical connections. The biggest worry I had was not breaking off the little "lock-tab" most (if not all) these connectors have. You have to gently pry up just enough to be able to pull the connector apart.
Pry up too much and SNAP! the connector will never "lock" together again. Add in the fact that these have all been exposed to 20+ years of under-hood heat and you can really break a sweat working with these babies. Of course you could always "zip-tie" both halves together again for security, but I try to disconnect everything carefully as possible to retain a factory look.
With the windshield wiper apparatus and booster assembly safely tucked into a box, I could go after the wiring that was still cluttering up the engine compartment.
Since this loom is specific to the LS model which has a different front lamp assembly, I'll be replacing it with the one from my SS, which is set up for the lamp assemblies in that front end.
Eventually I'll be able to put stuff like this up for sale so somebody with an LS who needs it can make use of it. It'll also help me recoup some of the moolah I've dumped into the project thus far.
Finally (after much cogitation) I won't be using the stock ECM (electronic control module) after all. I can remove the wire loom for that component as well. I've really been on the fence on this one. Lots of folks in the hobby are keeping theirs, while an equally vocal group remove it.
I love the postings regarding how some folks "cut the harness" to get rid of the computer. It's painfully obvious (to all but the most intellectually stunted), that all you have to do is unplug the connectors and remove the wires. Done. This isn't rocket science folks.
The red arrows show the two sheet metal bolts that mounted the ECM pass-through.
Here's a shot of the ECM in the foreground (including the painfully obvious connectors) as well as where the pass-through came into the car at the top of the passenger-side foot well. The only reason I won't use the ECM from my SS is due to the elimination of the AIR pump (and its associated plumbing) from the engine bay.
I had wanted to keep it at one point, but the thermal switches, wires, hoses and additional clutter have made me re-think things. Not modern sensors mind you, but big clunky (temperamental) vacuum switches that have to work in harmony with the computer. One more reason to unplug and carefully disassemble, you leave your options open.
Finally, it was time to remove the last major hurdle that remained... the HVAC plenum bolted to the firewall. At first glance, the job seemed simple enough, with all the wires and hoses disconnected and all the bolts easy to get at. But before I could remove all the plenum bolts, I had to remove the screen which protects the fresh-air intake. This was easy to accomplish, as was the removal of the hidden bolts once I scraped the body sealant off them. This got the plenum mostly loose, but it was still being held near the center of the dash. Thus concluded my initial attempt to remove whatever cables or wires were impeding my progress. Drat!
Here's a shot of the trim piece at the base of the windshield where the windshield wipers park. My plan is to have this piece (along with the rest of the windshield trim), powder coated black, since the original SS piece started rusting where the factory flat black paint wore off.
This way I'll retain the factory SS look, but if more wear occurs, at least the trim won't start rusting. I guess the factory bean counters were trying to cut costs, but this is my ride and I plan on doing things the right way.
With the stainless trim out of the way, I could remove the screen that keeps crap out of the hvac plenum. As you can see, the screen gets the job done. My father-in-law's little Ryobi battery powered impact driver really came in handy for much of the disassembly. This is why I'm doing this at his place.
Between the air tools and the battery powered stuff, we can pull this thing apart the same way the guys who built it did on the assembly line. Just as ratchets improve your speed over wrenches, powered tools beat everything. You do have to use them with care, or you'll strip threads, break screws and round off heads. Get a feel for the tool though, and they're a great time saver.
Having removed most of the wiring harness, I decided this relay would be better off tucked away in a ziploc bag for the duration. As you can see, I'm back to the nut driver again. Also in this shot are the caps I used to try and keep crud out of the evaporator. After awhile, the constant back and forth between bolt sizes is enough to drive you nuts... pun intended.
This was the last thing I thought needed to be removed before testing how loose the plenum assembly was. No matter what I tried, that plenum just would not let go.
Drat! Drat! Double Drat!
About the 6th time I tried to get at a barely accessible nut, bolt or connector, the cold, hard truth became obvious... the dash would have to come out. I had planned on doing this anyway, just not so early in the process. Okay, okay... I get it. Time to run up the white flag of surrender and refocus my efforts on the removal of the dashboard. Of course I was still convinced that a grizzled old Mr. Goodwrench could've done the job without going to this extreme. Boy I'm stubborn at times. After we broke for lunch, I grabbed my drop light, re-aimed my fans and climbed inside.
The most logical place to start is the instrument panel. Removing the bezel and several other dress up pieces is easy requiring only a "phillips" screwdriver. From there on out though, things get complicated quickly. Like this little baby for example. Unless you remove the plastic lens protecting the instruments and the shadow box beneath it, you'll never see this!
Now I've pulled the dash on my SS apart several times (mainly for lamp replacement), so I knew about this. I wonder how many owners just get frustrated and either break it to get it loose, or give up and put everything back together. Certainly not how I'd engineer things.
Since most of the cars hvac doors are operated via small vacuum motors, that meant that I had to disconnect the vacuum connector from the hvac control panel. Removing the hvac controls unit meant confronting my old nemesis. I remember fighting these these fiendish little things on my old GTO back in the day.
These are little speed clips, intended to slide over little plastic pins located at various places around the whole HVAC assembly, from the cable that regulates how much heat you want to the aforementioned vacuum connections.
The problem is that they (as are most of the clips I encountered), are designed to be strictly a one-way (or one use) connector. Getting them off (without destroying them in the process), is shall we say, "character building." I also took plenty of reference shots for when re-assembly becomes a priority.
I'm sure GM (or the aftermarket) has some sort of special tool designed specifically for this purpose, but lacking one, I resorted to my old stand-by, needle-nose pliers. Grab one edge, pry up gently, then grab the opposite edge and pry up on it, back and forth, gradually working the accursed speed clip up and off the plastic pin hopefully without destroying either.
Amazingly enough, they're available at your local auto parts store as one of those pre-packed HELP items. I didn't know this during disassembly, so I took my time and worried them free without destroying them. A penny saved is a penny earned!
The left arrow shows the bracket that supports the radio, while the right arrow shows where the bolt holding the floor-hump diffuser was located.
I couldn't get a nut-driver on it, and my 1/4 inch ratchet had little room for movement, even using a universal joint. Then I got to the point where the bolt was too tight for fingers, too loose for the wrench. Removing the radio made all the difference in the world. It was at this point I was glad I'd refocused my attention on the removal of the dashboard.
By this point I was closer, but the driver's side of the dash was still being held in place by the wiring loom which runs the width of the upper dash tucked neatly behind the dash pad and (drum roll please), "clipped" in place.
If you look closely at the black plastic wire wrap (green arrows), you can almost see the edges of this style of clip. The simple act of pulling the plastic "barbs" out of the hole tends to ruin them no matter how carefully you try to coax them free. Thankfully these too are available through the aftermarket, so I didn't feel any remorse prying them free with reckless abandon. At least what little reckless abandon one can muster, wedged under a mostly loose dashboard armed only with a pair of 90 degree needle-nose pliers.
These two wire-tie style wire loom supports are located just above the instrument cluster. Again I used my needle-nose to work the plastic barbs free from their moorings. It was late afternoon by this point and both my patience and energy were fading fast. The heat and the humidity take their toll, even working in the shade with several fans blowing and cold beverages flowing.
The wiring harness bends down between the radio and the instrument cluster and continues to the passenger side along the bottom edge of the dash. I can't even imagine the fun I'm going to have putting all this back together.
Next, I removed both courtesy lamps (one spring-tab mounted, the other held in place with a 7mm sheet metal bolt), that were mounted to the lower edge of the dash, as well as the connector where the dealer would connect his engine analyzer.
Each time I thought I had the dash free, another road block would rear it's ugly head. Thankfully though, all the plastic connectors I had feared might be too brittle to disconnect actually performed as designed. I was able to simply unplug each connector (once I gently pried up the locking tab), the way the engineers originally intended.
Once again, I wiggled the dash panel in an attempt to see if I'd finally gotten it free. Nope, still wouldn't budge. One of the last hurdles was this little gem. Someone in their infinite wisdom decided to mount all the flashers, chimes and warning buzzers in one convenient pod behind the dash.
The arrows illustrate where another two 7mm (nuts this time instead of sheet metal bolts), fasteners had to be removed in order to free the offending unit. Just when I'd gotten used to juggling several different sized tools, I come upon the one place in the car where somebody used some uniformity. Figures.
Ahh, finally out! Eventually it'll be re-covered in the factory gray hue I have chosen as an update to the interior. Since I'm gutting the interior anyway, I'm also toying with changing over to bucket seats and a console. This will be necessary if I decide to upgrade the instrument panel with "real" gauges like the Buick Grand National GNX, which utilized old-school Stewart Warner instrumentation.
I had envisioned a "PRND321" display of some kind incorporated into the bank of "idiot lights" to the right of the stock instruments (the stock shift quadrant is part of the stock speedometer), but have no idea how to engineer such a thing. Sure would look cool though.
Several things to note in this shot. First, although the dash looks good in this shot, the blue arrows denote where the dash has split in several places adjacent to the defroster ducts and speaker openings. The yellow arrows are the four studs for mounting the instrument pod. They're held on by nuts from the rear, the speed-nuts shown do not come off. Don't ask how I know this. The orange arrow is important. This bracket is "sandwiched" between two other brackets and compressed between them by the steering column mounting nuts.
In this shot, the two green arrows show the two brackets the "orange" bracket in the above shot is sandwiched between. The red arrow points out one of the steering column mounting nuts. There's one on each side. I loosened both and lowered the steering column enough to enable me to pull the dash panel forward. The dash panel bracket has two U slots so you can remove the dash with the bolts only loosened, not completely removed. Nice.
What a mess of spaghetti huh? Fortunately, most of these connectors will only mate to its own counterpart so it's difficult to get things wrong. Between this, the pictures I've taken and the factory shop manual (which I had the foresight to order when I bought my car back in 1987), I shouldn't have any problems during re-assembly.
So, by the time we were picking up our tools at the end of the day, we were left with this. As you can see, the plenum is finally out and the holes for the brake booster and electrical firewall pass-through have been taped off. The plan is to smooth off some of the factory welds which appear as dimples in these shots.
I'm not going for a totally flat firewall with mirror-reflective paint or chrome. The guys who get that fancy usually do it to show cars and live in California, so they don't need heat or A/C in the first place. Since this is going to be a dual-purpose street machine (and I live in the southeastern United States), all the amenities need to stay. Maybe I can strike a happy medium between the two extremes.
So the tally for today was a measly 4 hours, due mostly to the late start I got. For some reason the things you think will go quickly, seem to take all day. In contrast some assemblies you think will take hours come off in minutes instead.
Day 5 (10/3/09) - Even More Disassembly
In my quest to make up for lost time during my last session, I made sure to get an early start. By 9:30 Saturday morning, I was already in my work clothes and immersed in dismantling the front suspension. While my trusty steed is undergoing a power infusion, I (in my infinite wisdom), decided that more stopping power would complement the added ponies under the hood.
Thus began my descent into the intricacies of the front suspension. Thankfully the internet is a great educational tool. My quest for more stopping power has turned out to be a classic demonstration of the domino effect.
Bigger brakes distills down into a larger rotor (as well as a larger caliper/pad assembly) from another car in the vast GM family, in this case a Chevy Caprice. The larger spindle (on which to mount the larger rotor/caliper), will require a different upper control arm for proper suspension geometry. A different (taller) lower ball-joint (available from the aftermarket) will be required to combat the bump-steer this combination unintentionally provides. I may also need different tie-rod ends.
Once all this is accomplished, I'll need different (larger diameter) wheels to provide the space for the bigger brakes and with the necessary offset to negate the 1/4 inch or so wider track from the spindle swap. WHEW! Then there's the cost. If I go the "kit" route, none of these upgrades come cheap, although the car is popular enough for club support as well as aftermarket vendor support. On the flip side, there are always the junkyards. My father-in-law has discovered that one of the few that will let you traipse about their hallowed ground, charge an "entry" fee, "hazardous material disposal" fee... a whole plethora of fees it seems, just to procure used parts. Now call me old-fashioned, but isn't the junkyard designed for those of us with limited resources? That's how it was back in Jersey... but that was almost 20 years ago.
Of course, before any of these high-flown notions can be acted upon, I need to dismantle the stock suspension, so I can start over fresh. Before I can get the front spindles off, I need to remove the castle nuts. But before I do that, I need to remove the cotter pins. Said cotter pins having several thousand miles of rust and road-grime holding them in place.
I'd always been a needle-nose pliers man, but my father-in-law showed me how to use a pair of diagonal cutters to carefully extract the cotter pins. My worries were for naught, the cotter pins came out with no problems whatsoever.
The castle nuts weren't too much of a problem either, a squirt or two of PB Blaster and the impact wrench zipped them right off. However, getting the ball-joints free of the spindle was another matter entirely.
Also seen in this shot is the ridiculously long sway-bar bolt which also needed to be removed. I mean look at that thing... why the additional 3 inches of thread was necessary will forever remain a mystery. If I seem overly concerned with the bolt length... well, let's just say it came back to haunt me later that day.
With the nuts loose, it was time to break out the impact hammer. We attached the ball-joint remover (or pickle fork as we call it), and had at it. It wasn't long before we discovered that (other than making a lot of noise and destroying the dust cups of the ball joints in the process), we were getting nowhere fast.
We backed off the castle nuts to the end of the ball joint stud and went to work with a ball peen hammer. This only served to deform the nuts. Clearly, it was time for plan B.
Plan B in this case called for breaking out the heat wrench. The trick here is to heat the hole in the spindle, causing the metal to expand and hopefully releasing the death-grip the spindle had on the ball joint stud. And that meant... we got to play with...
There's something almost aromatic about the smell of hot steel and burning rubber that appeals to gear head's of all ages. Yep, there's nothing quite like establishing your dominance over a piece of recalcitrant machinery by breaking out the old torch. I mean this process is supposed to be enjoyable, right?
With the lower ball joint loose, it was time to attend to the sway bar. For this task, we broke out the die grinder equipped with a cut-off wheel.
Uh oh... that's a double-ooch! The tool works great, but you need to keep an eye on the surrounding assemblies as well as the part you're cutting free. You can't quite tell in this shot, but the sway bar got a notch cut into it that was, shall we say, un-planned.
Oh no! The front sway bar, she's-a-hurt. I'd probably be more concerned if I didn't already have a replacement (currently bolted to my SS), waiting in the wings. In fact, the forums on montecarloss dot com, have folks swapping in a hollow front sway bar off an F-Body (Camaro/Firebird), for improved handling.
Not sure which way I'll go yet. I may just use the stock SS bar at first, then upgrade later. I'll have to see how far I can stretch the old budget.
Not sure if something like this could be welded up or not. I wouldn't want to attempt it. I'll just use another sway bar.
After lunch, we reconvened and (undaunted by my previous mistake), I grabbed the die grinder and went after the sway bar bolt on the passenger side. This time, I decided to simply grind off the excess threads, rather than go after the nut itself.
Then all I had to do afterwards was give the bolt a few turns and presto, it was off. A lesson that I'll keep in mind as I deconstruct other parts of the car.
I hate shock absorbers. The last time I monkeyed with these, I was working on my buddy's Plymouth back in the mid-80's. Back then I used liberal amounts of Liquid Wrench and a pair of Vice Grips to hold the end of the stud while I turned the top nut. Took forever.
Sparks and Flames!
Not this time though. Heat up the nut and blow out the steel baby. Of course this set the upper shock grommet on fire, filling the air with acrid, black smoke. Cool! Then I used the air-ratchet to buzz the two bolts off that held the shock to the lower control arm and presto, done!
Okay kiddies, it's time to say a few words about shop safety. These coil springs are under incredible pressure and need to be respected. The last thing we wanted was for this thing to get away from us. So, before we went much beyond loosening the lower ball joint, it was time to break out the safety chain.
You don't need to strap it down real tight. In fact, you need to keep some slack in the chain in order to allow the parts to separate. The chain's job is to control this separation, and release the spring pressure slowly. With the chain in place, we heated and hammered the upper ball joint free of the spindle.
The chain did it's job and after a rather loud BANG, the spindle was free. Of course the spring itself was a different story. I lowered the lower control arm as much as I could, nada. I jacked the frame up to the extent of the jack's travel, nada. Finally we removed the bolts attaching the lower control arm to the frame... nope. Grrr! Finally took a pry bar to it and SPROING! CLANG! It was out.
So... we got the spring out (safely, not even so much as a skinned knuckle), but one thing became abundantly clear. Re-Installation is going to require a spring compressor. No if's and's or buts. Ah well, it's a chance to purchase another tool and if I'm going to be playing with the ride height anyway, it'll probably earn its keep.
There are two diagonal cross-brace bars that are used to tie the two front frame horns to the cross member, which goes beneath the engine. The cross member has bolts which are threaded into the steel. At the front of each frame horn, a nut & bolt are used. This means you have to get creative with your placement of wrenches. My method is illustrated below.
I discovered that there is a perfectly placed access hole in the underneath side of each frame horn which makes wrenching possible. I have no way of knowing if this was the intended purpose at the factory, but they had to grab the head of the bolts somehow.
While my camera batteries were charging, I took the opportunity to remove the remaining steering components. First, I disconnected the pitman arm from the drag link. Next, I unbolted and removed the rest of the steering linkage. Finally, I un-bolted the steering box and pulled the steering shaft assembly.
This was pretty straight forward actually, with 3 bolts holding the box to the frame, while a third holds the collapsible, splined sections of the steering shaft in place. There are several proprietary bolts (probably made of un-obtainium), used throughout, so they were summarily bagged and tagged.
I put in a really long day and made tons of progress. All in all, not a bad 8 hours of gear head fun.
The front frame horns are stripped down about as far as they can be at this point. I still have a couple of brake lines to pull and then the final cleanup can begin. Hopefully cleaning the frame will go quickly so I can take advantage of a late Indian Summer and blow some Chassis Black onto my frame.
If I can pull that off, it will be a good note to wrap on before the cold weather settles in. Once it gets too cold to paint or do body work I'll probably pull the exhaust (or what's left of it), as well as the stock transmission cross-member.
I have refined my approach a bit, by re-focusing on completing "sections" of the car. I had been planning on doing things in order of expense, but that way seems to take forever. If I can get the front completed it will be most gratifying.
Day 6 (10/24/09) - Final Front Disassembly, Initial Metal Prep.
In a totally unprecedented move, I set my clock-radio for 7:30am... on a Saturday! Logistics dictated I get up this early to get the pets fed and out, as well as 60 minutes drive time to my in-laws. Not to mention that my better-half tagged along to go shopping with her mom.
I'm not sure why, but for some strange reason, taking a woman with you (no matter where you're going), is well... I guess launching the Space Shuttle might be the best analogy (since it seems to take forever to get going) but I digress...
Anyway, since I've decided to re-paint the frame (and firewall), I decided to clean things up a bit too. Ah, there's nothing quite like opening up a fresh can of worms first thing in the morning.
I only had a few last things to remove before beginning my final cleanup prior to painting. Here, I'm removing the brake proportioning valve (this balances the braking effort between the front and rear brakes), and one last brake line. I circled a couple of bad welds I noticed during this operation.
Only the throttle cable and the speedometer cable grommet remained. The throttle cable put up the biggest fight, having 4 tabs that needed to be depressed (simultaneously of course), for removal. For lots of us, this typically results in...
On the other hand, the speedo cable popped right out once I removed the retention clip. Unfortunately, I accidently destroyed it in the process.
23 some-odd years of under-hood heat and age having taken its toll on the plastic. Fortunately, it's a simple enough design for me to copy, only I plan on using metal to fab up a replacement.
There's an old maxim about not buying a car built on a Monday (workers probably hung over) or Friday (workers can't wait for quitting time) resulting in poor build quality.
I'm not sure what happened the day this baby rolled down the assembly line, but I think the UAW welders were having a bad day. There's welding slag (and even some welding wire remnants) everywhere you look.
I circled some of the welding "pimples" and the arrows show the welding wire, still attached after 20 some odd years. There's no way I'd paint over this.
One of the new tools I'm learning to work with is the die grinder. This made short work of all the welding slag when equipped with a 3M Rolok abrasive disk. I'd used sanding disks before, but holding up a small maneuverable (not to mention light-weight), high-speed tool like this, can't compare to my archaic electric drill method.
Granted you have a certain investment in the tool (and the compressor to run it), but what a difference it makes! If you're on a tight budget (and who isn't), hit some yard sales, flea markets or even a swap meet. Sears also sells re-conditioned tools at a discount. Find a manager willing to haggle and you'll save even more.
Of course once you embark on this type of cleanup, there's the ever present temptation to make it perfect. I'm not trying to build a show car here, but these imperfections would be the first thing to show through my new paint job. And yes, this is the bottom surface of the frame.
Since 90% of a paint job is preparation (not to mention I'm the one doing this job), I want to be able to take pride in this, not make apologies for crappy prep work. Me and my darned work ethic. If I keep on like this, I'll never finish this thing.
Here's a shot after having ground down all the offending slag. I may have to go over some of this again with a finer grit to remove some of the more aggresive grinding marks. A lot will depend on what kind of coverage the chassis black primer and chassis black top coat provides.
This is a shot of the upper A-Arm mount which is welded to the passenger side of the frame. This is just one more case of the job taking far longer than it did in my earlier estimations.
For quick removal of paint and surface rust from larger areas, an angle grinder equipped with a wire brush was called upon. This is another amazing air-driven tool that makes the job go much more quickly. The high-RPM's coupled with the light weight and speed make quick work of the larger areas.
One thing I've noticed is that since these wire wheels are rated for 10,000 rpms, they tend to be manufactured in a way that makes them shed less wires. However eye protection is still a must regardless.
Even though this was a relatively "clean" southern car, it still needed a thorough going over. I snapped this shot to because it really represents the progress and it didn't really take very much time either. What takes the time is being meticulous and doing a quality job.
As you can see, the factory paint had long since parted company from the steel of the frame. Other areas (like the crossmember that goes under the oil pan), will need more prep before wire-wheeling. There's nothing worse than hitting a spot of greasy build up with this baby. In case you're wondering, you get a fine spray of greasy black blobs all over your face/arms for your trouble.
Even though I had stepped up my pace as the afternoon wore on, the time change caught up with me and I lost the light and (more importantly), the paint-friendly temperature.
I've visited lots of websites where folks complain about their paint job taking forever to cure. My cans of chassis black paint are very explicit.
Ideally the temperature needs to be about 75 degrees with low humidity. This refers to the paint and the material being painted. Needless to say, 60 degrees wasn't going to cut it. Oh well, I gave it a shot.
Another rousing 9 hours of good progress was made. A new personal best! I had planned on at least getting some primer on the frame, but that didn't pan out. If I don't have the right conditions, I won't paint.
Okay...forget November...also December, January and February. Between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays not to mention the strictly "fair weather" nature of this build (since the car is only semi-sheltered) the whole affair pretty much went into hibernation for the winter. My savings account got a chance to recover too. So, the end of October was (for all practical purposes at least) the last time I worked on Blue Thunder.
Those of you who think I twiddled my thumbs for four months need to check out my deviations page. The weather turning cold actually allowed me to re-focus my attention on some house projects, some of which are (albeit somewhat remotely), connected to project Blue Thunder. Having a "fixer-upper" house definately keeps you from becoming bored, but finally (on the first day of spring appropriately enough) I was able to get a couple of hours in on the Monte! These amounted to little more than grinding down more welding slag (hence the lack of pictures) with some Rolock pads in preparation for the eventual painting of the frame. Once I get that completed I can begin cleaning the frame chemically as my final preparation.
Day 7 (6/12/10) - Return To Metal Preparation
Finally, after months of getting sidetracked by one thing or another I was finally able to get in some quality time on project Blue Thunder. In a precedent I set earlier, I once again set my clock-radio for 7:30am... on Saturday! This sets into motion a chain of events typically enjoyed (during the work-week) at least 2 hours earlier.
My dog hears the alarm and (ever the vigilant watch-dog) alerts me to the commotion by nosing me with his cold, wet nose. Not to be left out, the cat jumps on the bed and stands on my ankles. The dog then proceeds to (not in any particular order) sneeze, snort, shake, chase his tail and thump up against the bed. Okay... okay... I'm up already! A quick stop at Golden Corral to partake of their massive breakfast bar set the stage for what I hoped would be a most productive day.
The first order of business was to inspect the frame to see what rusting had occurred in my absence. In this case, the side closest to exposure to the elements fared the worst. Even so, the frame really didn't look too bad... until I crawled underneath that is.
As we all know, paint will not stick to grease... or any other dirt for that matter. It was obvious that there were several areas (missed during previous degreasing/pressure washing) that needed to be cleaned.
This entailed more degreasing, using a spray bottle of mineral spirits and most of a roll of my super-duper, heavy duty (blue) shop towels.
There we go. Of course, cleaning everything to this level of spotlessness only served to highlight more of the welding slag pimples. But the next step in the cleaning process prior to painting involves green scotch bright pads. Grinding down the slag will greatly reduce shredding the pads.
So, every time an area was clean, I ran my fingers over it and if need be, grabbed the angle grinder (or my trusty Dremel for those really tight spots) to smooth out the area. And so it went, clean, grind, move on... until eventually, I had one side of the frame as prepped as possible. I even got totally anal and ground down some of the sloppier beads of welding while I was at it.
Here's another wonderful example of the welding expertise exercised by those mighty members of the UAW. I know it wouldn't be seen, so that's probably why it's here. More of my "in for a penny, in for a pound philosophy. Even though it won't be seen, I'd like to at least partially protect this area from rust.
If I want the paint to stick, I can't have a big rusty blob of crap hanging in the way. Once you're already hot, sweaty and generally filthy, the old "as long as I'm at it" train of thought tends to permeate the work flow. Besides, it only took me a minute or two with the angle grinder and this slag was history.
With all the grease finally banished (I hope) I can now return to the final preparation before spraying some primer on the frame. To that end, I am employing a product to etch the metal to maximize paint adhesion.
Of course there are probably some who would go so far as to prep the inside of the frame as well. That is well beyond the scope of this project. I may be anal at times, but even I have to draw the line somewhere.
Besides, I've got enough work on hand prepping the part of the frame that can be seen. My preparation and paint job will easily surpass what the factory applied back in the day. The frame lasted this long with their preparation, so I'm not going to worry about it.
Here's a first pass near where the steering box bolts to the frame. Rust has re-emerged following earlier removal with a wire brush attachment on the angle grinder. I'll have to rinse this area and re-wet this with more phosphoric acid until all the rust is removed.
This is a first for me. Then again, I've never painted a frame before, only the cars body. In that scenario, I simply wet-sanded and wiped the area down with prepsol prior to painting. This takes paint preparation to a whole new level.
Will the old maxim of paint preparation being 90% of the task hold true? Time will tell.
Here's the opposite frame rail on the passenger side of the vehicle. This area had a lot less rust making preparation easier. I sure am getting anxious to get some paint on this so I can move on to other areas. This is taking forever!
Then again, this is the first time I'm plunging into a car project at this level of detail. I'm quickly learning that there's a lot more to preparation than the old sandpaper and primer bit I used on my old '76 Chevy pickup. Eventually I might just want to take this to a car show or two with my better half, which I've never done before either. I don't want my car to look like some of the "wavy-gravy" paint jobs I've seen by the less-knowledgable of my gear head compatriots.
I've never minded "in progress" cars at car shows, that's what it's all about after all. But when a guy is so obviously proud of a sub-par paint job, that just makes me sad that he (or she) wasn't taught the proper way or rushed throught the job. I'm trying not to fall into either of those undesirable categories. This (I sincerely hope) is the process that will ultimately make me proud of a job well done.
So, another day full of gear head adventures. I don't mind telling you I was dragging butt by the end of the day, but that was okay as I looked back over the progress I made. So next I can primer the frame and protect it with some Chassis Black I bought from Eastwood. First time I'm using their stuff, so I'll be interested in seeing if real-world use equals the hype in their catalogs.
Day 8 (6/26/10) - Final Metal Preparation & First Coat of Primer
Saturday saw SC locked into another HHH (hazy, hot, humid) weather pattern as once again I got a 7:30am start. Early for a weekend, since my weekday typically starts at 5:30am. Two hours isn't much, but I'll take it. This time I needed to clean off the first layer of cleaner I used previously with a rust removal/preparation solution.
To recap, I used the Prep & Etch along with an aggressive maroon scotchbrite pad, followed by green. This was after "mechanical" de-rusting via wire/grinding wheels. However I've learned that only takes care of visable rust. The Prep & Etch began the "chemical" removal of the visable rust:
This time, I broke out the Purple Power Rust Remover & Metal Conditioner spray bottle and went over everything again. The small black areas seen here, are where the rust has been converted instead of being removed. My goal was total removal, but reality sometimes dictates a more practical approach.
Both the Purple Power Rust Remover & the gray scotchbrite pad I used above were less aggressive than what I used previously. Even so, the surface will be as well prepared to take the paint as I can make it. It may not be show quality, but I plan on driving this, not trailering it to shows.
This is the result of another 6 hours worth of work. Even as meticulous as I try to be, there were still a couple of spots where I had to break out the old putty knife upon spotting grease residue. Primarily where there were 90 degree joints between two pieces of metal.
There were still a few welding slag "pimples" here and there too, as evidenced by my rather shredded scotchbrite pad. But at the end of the day I'm the one who has to be satisfied with the end results. I probably could make it closer to perfect, but that's not a realistic goal for me.
I did not (as the more eagle-eyed of you may have noticed) prep the insides of the upper control arm bracketry. I did the horizontal frame surface it mounts to, but the rest was just too much intricate work for the scope of this project.
Those of you who are planning (or in the midst of such an undertaking) will probably find yourselves faced with similar decisions.
The Eastwood company sells a product to seal the rust located on the inside surface of the frame, with an 18 inch hose to reach all the nooks and crannies! Now that would give you bragging rights about your no-stone-unturned frame off restoration.
I'm using a new (for me at any rate) application method for my frame. This is the PreVal kit, which comes with a glass paint jar, suction tube and pressurized spray canister. Once you have the kit, all you need to do is purchase as many spray canisters as you think you'll need and start painting.
I should probably go on record right here and now, that this is no way to get a top quality paint job on your car. But I am painting my frame, which has exposed welds, stamping marks from the factory etc. It ain't perfect, so for this part of the job, this delivery system saves me the hassle of dragging out the big gun.
There seems to be quite a debate raging on practically every car/truck restoration site regarding the merits or pitfalls of POR 15 vs. some variant of paint. I researched this heavily and came to a conclusion. POR 15 dries to a hard (not to mention brittle) consistancy, which is touted as preventing rust. What they don't mention, is that cars (despite what you might think) flex. That's were the problem lies. The frame flexes (sometimes where you least expect it) in areas not accessable and this cracks the tough, hard, brittle coating you just applied. Now moisture can creep under it and begin rusting whatever you worked so hard to prepare and cover.
Ahh, finally! This is the big payoff, following some 20 hours worth of preparation work. Time involved in actually painting the frame? 30 minutes. Yep, half-an-hour to lay down the first coat, taking my time so the coverage was even with no runs, sags or drips.
I did my best to follow the paint commandments listed on the paint can. "Thou shalt not lay down too heavy a coat of paint. Knowest this, two light coats are far better than one heavy coat, lest thy paint job look amateurish and hurried."
So, I did my best, considering I'm using a new application method and I last layed down automotive paint back in the 1980's.
As with most painting efforts where your project is semi-exposed to the great outdoors, my primary problem was airborne contaminents. Now here's a question... just what is it about fresh paint that acts as the greatest bug lure known to man?
I mean common, you're going to get stuck and die, so why not just go someplace else? Moot philosophical ponderings aside, the final tally was one bug and one hair in my paint job.
Neither of which is a biggie, since there are more coats of paint to come... once the "foreign" objects are removed. Another 8 hour day, but worth it for the payoff at the end.
The directions on the paint can are specific, allow 24 hours between coats. Probably because the paint is still chemically "soft" allowing the second coat a better "bite" after 24 hours. Beyond that, I may have to scuff the surface in order to get the best adhesion.
What all this means is that I'll be back tomorrow, in an unprecedented Sunday session. Unusual, yes, but past experience has taught me that in situations like this the best course of action is to follow the directions on the can.
Day 9 (6/27/10) - Second Coat Of Primer
Following a Sunday brunch, we re-convened at my father-in-law's garage, and gathered up the necessary equipment to apply a second coat of the primer. In my absence, my father-in-law (not happy with the results of the PreVal kit) sanded the frame lightly before I arrived. This time we broke out a traditional spray gun (which resulted in a much finer pattern of paint droplets) to lay down the second coat of primer and were much more pleased with the results.
Today's task was easy, only a couple of hours worth of time to shoot a second coat of primer, including prepping the gun and clean up afterwards. Im using Eastwood's "Extreme Chassis Black" primer and topcoat, since this product seems to best meet my needs of durability in day-to-day use. I've read (and re-read) all sorts of opinions... now, I will be able to evaluate this product and post my real-world results. I can say this much right now... even in primer, it looks GREAT!
Day 10 (10/7/10) - Interior Disassembly... Continued
Saturday was a beautiful day, sunny, no humidity and a temperature just tickling the 80 degree mark. With my father-in-law at a van show and my wife and her Mom gone shopping, I had the whole day to myself. This meant moving on to those things I can manage by myself. Since the interior is to be upgraded along with everything else, I decided to tackle it next.
My camera crapped out after one shot, so while the batteries were charging, I charged ahead and pulled the seats. I grabbed a Phillips screwdriver, removed the plastic trim covers, and removed the nuts holding the seat to the floor. Definately not rocket science to pull the split bench.
With the seats out of the way, I pulled the seatbelt anchors. A torx driver will be needed for this. I tried a T40 (which fit like a slap in the face) since a T50 seemed too big at first. A couple of taps with a hammer though, and I was in like Flynn.
A good fit was necessary to overcome the death-grip of the extremely tacky thread lock used by the factory and removed the belt anchors.
Once I unbolted the seatbelt anchor inside the door sill, the next step was to pull the anchor for the shoulder belt guide loop. I grabbed the plastic cover seen here and with a little persuasion, it popped right off. Once again the Torx driver earned its keep.
To keep the seatbelt anchor bolts from getting lost, I put them back hand tight after removing the guide loop. The hardest part of the whole job was removing the bolts, mainly due to the sticky goop the factory used as a thread locking compound.
I left the old carpeting in place as a make-shift knee pad during this process. Don't laugh, it works!
If you do any work at all on late model cars, you really need to invest in a set of Torx drivers.
There are small sets like screwdrivers and larger sets you use with a 3/8 rachet and extensions as seen here. There's just no substitute for the proper tool when you're confronted with these babies. The smaller sizes come in handy for headlight trim as well as carburetor vacuum pull-offs, two places I've found the smaller fasteners.
Trust me, a set of these will pay for itself the first time you need one of these. Besides, what gear head hates tool shopping? They're not even all that expensive if you shop around.
Here's an exploded view courtesy the shop manual I ordered back when I first purchased the Monte. It was only $15 or $20 bucks at the time and I've used it to the point where it's well worn and still worth every penny I spent on it.
When you're working on a car at this level of disassembly, the original factory shop manual is an indespensible reference tool.
There's no comparison between this and your typical Haynes or Chilton manuals. It really helps having one made by the folks who built the car you're working on. It helps even more to remember to bring the darned thing with you to the shop you're working in.
After I unbolted the guide loop anchor, I was presented with this little puzzle. At first glance, it appears that there's no way all that hardware is going to fit through the little slit in the armrest.
Like most things you'll run across in a project of this magnatude, there's a trick to it. After removing 4 Phillips screws of varying length, I easily removed the plastic interior panels that hide the seat belt inertia reel.
The slit in the armrest has a plastic trim piece that pops out revealing a hole large enough to feed through all the seatbelt hardware.
Here's where an inexperienced gear-head might get into trouble. It really does look as though all the brackets and other hardware are never going to fit, yet if you know the technique, it does fit... just.
Patience pays off big time here, as there's a lot of fiddling with brittle plastic parts needed to accomplish the task.
The shoulder belt guide shown here was the only real hurdle to removing the rear seat armrest assembly. The actual seat belt buckle assembly literally fell through the narrow opening!
Even though my camera took an unscheduled "time out," I was still able to get a lot accomplished. Today's work tally was a measly 5 hours or so. Even so, the seats are out, as are the seat belts and headliner trim pieces.
I even zip-tied some of the dash wiring up and out of the way for future maneuvers. That's it for today, the festivities concluded a bit early as I was totally fragged out from climbing in and out of the car repeatedly. Even though the headliner is still in place, the interior is (for all intents and purposes) gutted.
Day 11 (10/30/10) - Trim Disassembly...
Wowzers! Another beautiful Saturday with a temperature in the mid '70's. With my father-in-law focusing primarily on his car trailer utility box installation, I pressed on with removing the brightwork.
This meant removing the door seals (or more accurately what was left of them after 23 years) to expose the screws beneath. This is another case of specialized tools being worth their weight in gold.
Back in the day (had I been so inclined to do so) I'd have grabbed the nearest putty knife or screwdriver and jumped in with both feet. This time I have access to specialized trim removal tools which made the job much easier.
There's no easy shortcut to doing this. This is why "el-cheapo" paint shops mask off your trim and call it a day. I've been down that road, but since I'm changing the color to a dark blue I want it to look right. Can you imagine the labor charges to have a paint shop do this?
I started by peeling the rubber away from the aluminum trim until I reached the point where the adhesive was strongest. That meant it was time to grab one of the tough plastic prying tools for an assist.
For the most part I was able to remove the rubber seal leaving just a trace of adhesive behind. I can clean this off with some lacquer thinner later on.
Since the factory probably had good reasons for applying the adhesive in a given manner, I was careful to take several shots of how the adhesive was applied so I can duplicate it during the re-assembly phase.
With the smooth surface having parted company with the underlying foam base, I found a W shaped reinforcing wire that ran through the thing. It was stiff (not to mention that the edges were very sharp) and helped the gasket maintain its shape. I tried taking it all off in one piece at first then figured what the heck, I'm replacing all this stuff anyway.
Although I pretty much ripped the old window gasket free, I still took care when it came to the aluminum trim. The very thin aluminum trim. I'm thankful the factory used aluminum for its resistance to rust and the fact that it can be polished or painted. I just wish the darned stuff didn't bend so easily.
Having removed the black screws exposed by removing the window seal, I began to carefully pry up on the inner trim. The factory adhesive was intense but slowly and carefully I worked it up and away from the trim that lay beneath. A putty knife would've probably worked but I feel better using tools made for the job.
Not seen here is the blue tool I used with a 90 degree tapered edge. I was able to alternate back and forth between the various prying tools, using whatever worked the best.
You simply cannot be in a rush to complete this part of the disassembly process. The "pry a little, wiggle a little, pull a little" method seems to work the best.
Finally. At this point things had progressed to the point where it was hanging by a thread. Before removing it completely however, I took several pictures of the way the factory had overlapped the adhesive strips between the layers of trim. This is stuff I know I'll never remember when the time comes so the pictures are uber important.
Hopefully, I'll be able to purchase the same adhesive from one source or another. Although I'd be willing to bet that the adhesive industry has made huge strides in the years since my baby rolled down the assembly line.
Anything's got to be better than the brittle body seam sealer I found in several places on the car.
While I worried the various pieces of trim free of the body, my father-in-law began working on removal of the stock control arm bushings.
After 23 years, they've got to be tired and sloppy besides, my plans include upgrading the front suspension. I thought a press would do the job but since my father-in-law has been down this particular road many times I deferred to him.
Future plans include upgrading the front end to tubular upper control arms. The lowers however will be reused. I'll also be upgrading the stock brakes to something more appropriate to a high performance machine.
Here's a close up shot. Evidently the best method involves heating the inner metal tube to boil the rubber. Then some friendly persuasion with the screwdriver until the center tube is free. The air was once more filled with the acrid aroma of burnt rubber. Large flakes of soot floated over the car as I returned my attention once more to trim removal.
Once the bushings are removed, the plan will be to sandblast the parts and hit them with some chassis black like I did with the frame.
I'm not sure if the factory ever painted these or let them roll out the door au naturel, but coming from the North, I hate rust and want to protect what I can from the evil rust-monster.
Here's a shot of the finished product, the small tubular pieces were the inner wall of the stock control arm bushings. These things come in handy as spacers when you're trying to line up an alternator or power steering pump. Like most hot-rodders I tend to abhor waste, so these will get tossed into my parts bin.
Of course, I now realize that in order to prepare these for paint they'll have to get sandblasted. What that means is that my identifying chalk mark is rather ridiculous for the process that lies ahead.
My father-in-law made good use of a stamping kit he's got and stamped RTSIDE into the steel of the appropriate control arm. You learn something new every day when you tackle a project like this.
In my own defense, the chalk mark I made was done during the disassembly process. This was before I realized that you can tell the lower control arms apart by several different methods, one being the location of the sway bar bushing mount hole.
Also, at the time I wasn't sure whether or not I'd be re-using the stock lower control arms or ordering some tubular units. Since most of the handling advantages come from improved camber via the upper control arm, I've decided to reuse the stock lower arms.
As you can see here I still had plenty of screws to remove in order to get the next inner trim piece free. The funny looking thing at the top of this picture is not an armrest from the car, but actually an organizer I used to keep all the fasteners organized. You can also see the edge of the hood, which has been sitting on the roof ever since we took it off to pull the engine.
Also seen in this shot is a rare sight for this breed. Probably the only G-Body headliner in existence that has not yet fallen down.
My current plan is to carefully extract the headliner so I can recover it in the shade of gray I've got planned, then re-install it. Of course the sun visors are scheduled for refurbishment as well.
This piece was hands down, the toughest of all to remove. It may have been the fact that this was a long piece and any over-zealous prying might bend the thin aluminum.
In fact, even though I thought I was going slowly and carefully enough, I wasn't. As luck would have it, I used a little too much gusto and bent this piece slightly... in two places! DRAT!
The primary opponent here was a formidable one, the unexpected tenacity of the OEM adhesive. Granted, the bends were very slight and I can easily straighten them again, but when you're trying to be careful it can be quite frustrating. I was more careful with the opposite side trim pieces.
The driprail trim (thankfully) put up much less resistance than the window seal trim. The screws attaching the trim are even a different color making reassembly a little easier. There was only a trace of adhesive used in conjunction with the screws making disassembly a snap.
I simply pulled the windshield section out from the bottom of the windshield pillar and slid it out of the drip rail at the seam. Then I slipped the drip rail trim off the drip rail itself and presto, the job she's-a-done!
Thankfully, removing the trim only turned up a small area of surface rust which I'll address once the body work gets under way. Next on my adgenda, removal of the body side molding trim.
Other than not having a noticeable paint line, here's another good reason to pull all the trim off prior to painting. Yes, it's every gear head's arch enemy... rust! This appears to just be a case of surface rust, but if not attended to it would certainly spread.
This is the upper corner of the windshield pillar on the passenger side. More of the factory seam sealer has dried and cracked exposing the surface, letting rust gain a foothold.
No worries though. Once the body work gets under way, I'll take it down to clean shiny metal before laying down a coat of epoxy primer. Then the topcoat, new seam sealer and she'll be as good as new again.
The Monte SS doesn't have the same 3 inch wide chrome side molding as the LS, so it was next on my list to be removed.
Amazingly, there are 8 of these clips along the side of the door, each one retained by two metal studs securing each clip to the skin of the door. Additionally, the front edge is held on with a stamped steel nut, the back edge with a screw/spring clip.
From my previous automotive experience I knew enough to push down one side of the trim and pry up on the other. The $64,000 question was... which way? Luckily, one clip wasn't fully seated and the trim pulled free enough for me to peek behind it.
If there's one thing that cracked me up as I used the factory shop manual, it's the phrases they tend to use. My favorite?. "Disassembly will be obvious upon inspection." Really? You wouldn't pull my leg now would you?
Other than "installation is the reverse of removal," this is my new all-time favorite. As in the case of the plastic trim clips which held the polished aluminum trim onto the side of the car.
While the way to remove the clips (tip the upper edge back then slide it down) may indeed be obvious upon inspection; how you get to that point is another matter entirely. X-Ray vision would sure come in handy at a time like this.
The door glass came out next, to be set aside while the door is worked on. I'll also clean the hardened grease out of the window tracks and touch up any rust I might find. This will also keep the door glass free of any overspray when the door is painted.
Five 10 mm nuts (yellow arrows) hold the window in position relative to the door. Additionally, the front edge is supported by a conical guide (green arrow) which runs in a vertical track inside the door.
This was a little tricky... Sort of like trying to tie your shoes while you're falling off a 12 story building. This was one time when I could have really used the shop manual.
Having already removed the inner door panel and the attached rubber window guide, the next step was to remove the aluminum window trim along with it's built-in window felt guides.
However, before I could remove the nuts that fastened the window to the window tracks, I needed to remove the inner felt guides (green arrows) shown here. The yellow arrow shows the third and most important window guide to remove. It consists of a long metal spear that threads through a plastic guide on the window itself. Unfortunately, I neglected to do this.
Two things... The front felt guide needs to be installed before the window glass. Removal of the "spike" style window guide is very important.
For the uninitiated, here's how you do it. By making use of the various holes stamped in the door, you can access the nuts. In this particular case, moving the window up or down slightly lined the nuts up with the openings in the door.
I temporarily re-installed the window crank handle removed previously to help with this maneuver. My method was to loosen all of the nuts so they were finger-loose. Having a helper hold the glass while you remove the nuts completely is essential to successfully removing the window glass from the door.
Did I say successfully? I'm not sure if this got broken during the disassembly process, but since the break looks clean (in comparison to the rest of the plastic piece) I'm leaning towards this being a recent development. As you can see it's actually riveted to the window glass. Great.
Knowing GM, I'd probably have to buy the glass to get the plastic guide. Thankfully I still have another car from which I can pull (I hope) a replacement. I'll have to devise some sort of attachment method when the time comes.
This little lesson stuck with me when it came time to do the driver's side. I was able to successfully extract that window with no problems.
Although the specter of busted parts tarnished today's efforts a bit, a good solid 6 hours of work was still accomplished. The polished aluminum trim has been removed as has one door which has had the glass removed.
I only broke a plastic window guide that's RIVETED to the glass! Not sure how I'll fix that faux pas when the time comes but, I'll worry about this later. I doubt epoxy would hold the broken pieces together, so I'll probably just swap out a guide from another window when the time comes. A mere 74 hours to get to this state of disassembly... your mileage may vary.
Disassembly Concludes... and Body Work Begins!