Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cleaning The Dash And Untangling The Wires, So Many Wires...

This last weekend I removed the firewall. I worked on removing the wiring harness starting with the taillight harness and moving forward. So far I have been lucky and have not broken any of the plugs or clips. With 30-year-old wiring everything is very fragile, however for the most part what I have examined so far looks to be in really great shape. I have decided to leave the clips in place on the frame for fear of breaking them as long as they will not interfere with the restoration of the interior. So far I have up to the rear speaker underbody loom removed. I took pictures of the wiring before I removed each section so I have it as a reference. You can see in the pictures below that the firewall is out now too. Once I get all of the wiring out or at least out of the way I will be putting up a video of the inside prior to starting on the floor.

While I worked on the wiring Sara was busy cleaning up the taillights and various dash pieces that we removed the previous week. She used both the air compressor and an all-purpose cleaner to clean up the pieces for storing until it is time to install them again. With all the years of dirt that has accumulated on this car, cleaning them requires multiple treatments and a lot of time and persistence.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Two Screws, Or Not Two Screws: That Was The Issue

Those last two pesky screws in the dash occupied way, way too much of my time! I thought I would recap the various methods I tried over the course of a week to remove the screws:
  • used nut driver while prying from behind with screw driver
  • used nut driver while pulling forward on the dash
  • used flat piece of metal to push on the screw from behind while turning with nut driver
  • used toothpicks from behind to get teeth to grab...lost toothpicks
  • used razor blade to pry behind screw head while turning...very dangerous...scratch that idea
  • used needle nose visegrips on screw head to pull while turning and just about put the visegrip though the windshield when it slipped off...waited for heart to stop pounding
  • used needle nose visegrips on screw head to pull while turning and landed on my butt in the rear seat well...that could have been so much worse
  • used rubber mallet to tap the metal retaining clip to one side or the other and then tried to turn it out
  • used ice pick to try to create more tension on clip
  • tried to use hacksaw blade to cut off the shank of the screw and broke the blade
  • tried to use the broken hacksaw blade to cut off the shank of the screw and cut myself
  • decided to drill out the head of the screws, very slow process...broke drill bit
  • tried larger drill bit...very hard screw...not getting anywhere
  • it was suggested to use WD-40 as a cooling agent...this helped a little but did more to splatter everything in sight... also WD-40 does not taste very good
  • switched to a larger bit and now the head started way to hold it
  • tried using C clamp to put pressure on screw from behind...clamp good
  • ready to cut dash into pieces to remove...Sara wants to take a look at the problem
I had been working on the dash issue as I had free time over the last week, but it is important to note that I was always working on the problem alone. When Sara came down to look at the source of my frustration and incessant grumbling\cursing, she said, and I quote, "Have you tried using the drill to turn them out? Maybe you could even pry with the screw driver while the drill is turning." 

Out of all of the things I had tried and that had been suggested to me this was not something I had considered. What did I have to lose? After putting the nut driver bit into the drill and while prying from behind with a screw driver, the screw came out like there was nothing wrong with it! I could not believe it! I was ready to try the second screw fairly confident that it would not work twice, however it came out too. It took a little more prying from a couple of different angles but it did turn out.

Words of Wisdom: Always keep your wife close by; you never know what she will come in handy for!

After the screws were out it was just a matter of unhooking the various clips that held the dash wiring harness in place on the back of the dash. This required me to become somewhat of a contortionist. Laying on my back using mirrors to see what I was doing was only part of the challenge - I also had to figure out how to get my arm(s) in between there to unhook the clips.

Once the dash was removed I worked on removing the jute padding along the top of the dash. I wanted to save this, but it was just deteriorating in my hands as I removed it. I also wanted to remove the firewall because I could see some rust issues going on along the bottom edge of the firewall on the drivers side. The firewall itself was crumbling in that area.

Here are some pictures with the dash removed. I will post pictures with the firewall removed once I start getting the wiring out of the way.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Hard Work And A Dash Of Persistence

I have been busy since my last post researching the power mirror options available to these early third generation Trans Ams. I have the switch and what looks to be factory wiring running in the right spot, but both mirrors are the manual type and there is an aftermarket manual adjuster lever on the driver side door. I can see no wiring in the door for the power mirrors, so I am worried that this will be another hacked apart wiring job. I have found a few sources for power mirrors, but without being able to ascertain the condition of the power mirror harness I am hesitant to buy any that do not have a complete harness.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Life In Plastic, It's Fantastic

This weekend we decided we needed to clean up the work area and find a place to store the interior plastics. Sara cleaned all the trim pieces while I removed and vacuumed some of the loose debris from the inside of the car. (This post's title lends a nod to the 90's music we listened to while cleaning.) I also removed both the door panels. As you can see from the pictures they need to be replaced. I have found sources for both new panels and the upper black window trim. Now that all the pieces are dry they are being stored above the garage door. We covered the car seats in plastic to keep them clean until I take them to be reupholstered. We also took the time to dry the floor and sweep out the garage before rolling the car back in.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Clues From The Past

Sara made a list of everything we found under the car seats and center console. Although we made some money, unfortunately we did not find the build sheet.
  • Jolly Rancher package
  • "Made Especially For You By Chris Sawyer" clothing label
  • church bulletin from the Church of St. Andrew in Granite Falls, MN dated June 10, 1990
  • blue elastic hair band
  • credit card receipt for $17.08 dated October 8, 1997
  • 2 Wrigley's gum wrappers
  • "Shelled Roasted Sunflower Nuts" package
  • $2.26 in change
  • plastic reflective lens
  • various screws and bolts
  • empty package of iodized salt
  • wrapper from an anise-flavored cough drop
  • 3 Coors Light bottle caps
  • pink Christmas light
  • Blast Off breath freshener (3/4 full)
  • the side of a plastic CD case
  • strip of black electrical tape
  • the sticky seal part of a business envelope
  • two dime-sized rubber bands
  • Werther's candy wrappers
  • wire splice
  • washer ring for a fuse
  • Subway Sub Club card
  • 2 interior light bulbs
  • State Farm Minnesota Insurance card registered to Shane D. Christensen for a policy dated June 1991 - July 1992 issued by agent Dolly Olson
  • lemon warhead candy still in its package
  • blown fuse
  • 2 terminal connectors
  • Allen wrench
  • Hardee's straw wrapper
  • toothpick
  • pen from South Central Technical College Albert Lea/Mankato
  • red elastic hair band
  • the now-deteriorated instructions for the jack and spare tire

Turning Inside Out

With the weather in the mid 50's this last weekend, I decided it was a perfect time to tackle removing the interior. I wanted to start with the console, but after I figured out I would lose my stereo in the process I decided to just remove the console top plate and leave the rest until just before I take out the carpet. I have to have music while I work! It turns out that the previous owner did not seem to care what he broke in the process of doing whatever it was he thought he was doing. The console lid is not salvageable as most of the mounting points are destroyed or cracked and missing. On a positive note though, the electric mirror controls which I had believed to be non-functional (as in not belonging to this car) actually have factory wiring hooked to them! That means with a little troubleshooting I should be able to get those operational again.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

This Weekend's Headliner: Gone

This weekend Sara and I removed the headliner in order to find out the extent of the damage caused by the leaking T-top. Even though the headliner itself was totally water damaged and deteriorating we were pleasantly surprised to find the roof's interior virtually rust-free. My theory is the headliner caught the leaking water and kept it away from the metal inside because it no longer fit properly and was drooping. The outside was not so lucky and the passenger side front rail has some pretty extensive rusting between the seals and the front lip of the car. So far in the areas I have checked the rust does not appear to have spread under the seals or to the irreplaceable U-channel. I have been doing some research into replacing the T-top seals. From what I have read there is supposed to be an adheasive under the seals to keep them in place and to keep water from getting trapped underneath the seals. The seals currently on the car do not have any adhesive as I was able to easily separate them from the metal. It appears that without the adhesive water was trapped between the seals and the body of the car (as you can see in the picture where I am pulling back the seal). From what I have inspected so far this seems to have only affected the passenger side. Here are some before and after pictures followed by some shots of the problem areas.

Monday, February 20, 2012

F.L.A.G. Mobile Unit Support Team

How Would You Feel If It Was Your Alpha Circuit?

It is always nice to have a mechanic you can trust. It is even better when they are willing to let you use their garage, hoist and tools. I first met Troy a few years ago when I sold the shop he works for a digital message center. I have taken our Freestyle to him ever since. The fact that Troy also happens to own an 1983 Camaro just makes it even better! 

I knew the car was in desperate need of a tune-up and I really wanted a mechanic's professional opinion of the mechanical shape it was in. I intend to do the majority of the work on the car myself, but there are somethings that are just easier to do when you have a hoist and can get the car up in the air to get a better look at it.

I snapped some shots of the under body while it was up in the air. These are more for my reference than for aesthetic value.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Licensed To Drive

It's official. Yesterday I registered and licensed KITT. The personalized plates I ordered will read "MY KITT" and will soon be proudly displayed on the car. Look for pictures soon!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Repairing One Man's Disaster

The previous owner performed a real hack job when it came to installing his aftermarket radio. I have never seen such a poor wiring job. Not only did he manage to break or damage most of the console and trim pieces, but he left unused hot wires exposed behind the radio. I am just lucky these did not short out on the drive home...or did they? The mysterious headlight behavior when I first got the car back into town suddenly has a possible cause. Here is a before shot of the wiring mess.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Feeling Nostalgic?

With all the information you can dig up, you really have to love the Internet and Google. I was able to put together a collection of sales literature, articles and photos pertaining to the early 3rd generation Firebirds (1982-84). I have converted these to PDF for your viewing pleasure. I won't apologize for the quality of these pieces as it is amazing to me still that I was able to find them at all.

It's All In The Code

Learning all you can about the history of your car is an important step in the restoration process. The Vehicle Identification Number is great, but it can only tell you so much about the vehicle. I was able to learn the following from the 17 character VIN on my car:

Build Country: USA
Manufacturer: General Motors
Make: Pontiac
Restraint System: Non-Passive/Manual Belts
Carline/Series: Firebird Trans Am
Body Type: Coupe - 2 Door Plain Back
Engine: LU5 5.0L (305 CI) V8 TBI (Throttle Body Injection)
Model Year: 1983
Plant: Van Nuys, CA
Build Sequence: 234580

This was great for starters, but I wanted to know more. Many of the cars prior 1984 had what is called a Body Tag that was stamped and affixed to the cowl of the car at the manufacturing plant. This tag contained much of the same information as the VIN, but also provided Regular Production Option (RPO) codes for body, trim and features included on the car. I snapped a picture of the Body Tag on my Trans Am and went to work researching and decoding its RPO codes.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

If You Are Going To Do It, Do It Right

This recent severe drop in temperature has been a quick reminder of what a typical South Dakota winter is usually like. We have had such mild winter weather thus far that it was easy to pretend winter just wasn't coming. Needless to say this cold is not very conducive to working on the car in a non-insulated garage. However it does allow ample time for research, which is what I have been doing this past week.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Goodbye Sunshade!

We removed the awful black sunshade! Unfortunately there is some etching on the glass I was not able to see before. I am not sure if there is a way to remove the scratches, but they are very light. I am going to research it and if I find anything I will post it. Here are the before and after pictures.

Now I Can Open The Passenger Door!

When I bought the car the passenger side door was inaccessible from the outside. It appears someone tried to break in to the car and managed to break the door handle and severely bend the metal latch assembly. Although there is nothing I can do for the door handle, Sara and I were able to make it functional again by removing the door panel and straightening the latch assembly rod.

My First Accessory

I figured if I wanted to park my Trans Am in the garage, it would be nice to be able to open and close the garage door. Since I only had one garage door opener, and that one belongs in our other vehicle, we made a trip out to Menards for a universal garage door remote. Sara programmed it while I started on the passenger door...

My Trans Am!

I purchased a 1983 Pontiac Trans Am from a Ford dealership in Redwood Falls, MN yesterday. The car runs good, but is in serious need of a engine and transmission tune up. It sports a 305 V8 LU5 with Cross-Fire Injection. It does have the WS6 package and 15" wheels although they are not Turbo Cast wheels. The body is in excellent condition with only minor (hail type) dents and scratches.

Friday, January 6, 2012

KITT, Can You Hear Me Buddy?

Every respectable KITT replica is going to need one, right? Well Mark Puette has taken it upon himself to create the most screen accurate Knight Rider Comlink the hobby has ever seen. It is nothing short of awesome, and thanks to Sara I now own one! For Christmas this year she gave me one of Mark's Comlinks with its own Knight Industries leather display stand and his 'KNIGHT' & 'Knight Industries' license plates.