Archive for the ‘Project Log’ Category

30 Days

August 6th, 2012 Comments off

This is going to be an interesting 30 days.  I had been putting off sending the truck to paint because things have just been too busy for me to finish up the last things I needed to on the truck.  I did succeed in having the front end rebuilt using poly bushings, so it is less “boat like” now.  I also had a new tranny pan put in, the carb rebuilt, and some other misc stuff.  In the process I’ve learned that my transmission has some serious wear going on in it (the pan looked like I was smuggling gold dust) and that I really want new engine.  Also, I need to address the suspension.  But it runs fairly well now!

This whole time, Bo has been patiently waiting for me to get my shit together (thanks Bo!).  But as luck would have it, Bo has gotten a new project he wants to invest in and so is willing to take on the whole project for a very sweet deal.  He is going to complete ALL the remaining interior and body work for me.

He says he and his team can get it done in 30 days, which would be unbelievable.  I’m going to bring him the truck this week!

This is what will have to be completed:


  • Interior steering column painted
  • Foglight wires (from new bumper) hooked to the existing switch next to the steering column
  • AC vents and conduit installed
  • Dash installed (with new custom aluminum defrost vents)
  • Cluster cover installed
  • Wires run placed so they’ll be under carpet (one set of power and two stereo) for future stereo install
  • Heat shield installed
  • Sound deadener installed
  • Carpet installed
  • Door cards installed (on new doors)
  • New window crank handles installed  (already purchased)
  • Plastic interior cab trig installed (this will be a bitch and require trimming probably because of the new carpet and crappy rocker job
  • New chrome step trim installed (also going to be a bitch)



  • All metal work and body work done
  • Paint
  • New doors installed CORRECTLY SO THEY CLOSE RIGHT
  • Install all new seals and rubber in doors  (already purchased)
  • Install new door handles  (already purchased)
  • Install new door mirrors  (already purchased and installed on current doors)
  • Install new Silverado badges (already purchased and painted)
  • Install new cab trim (already purchased)
  • Install new bumpers with and hook up foglights from front bumper
  • Install grill
  • Install new wheel arch trim
  • Install hitch (not purchased)
  • Install diamond plate bed edge protectors (not purchased)
  • Cab mounts (already purchased)
  • Put in driver side fender (already purchased)
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Firewall Leak

February 8th, 2012 Comments off

In prepping everything for carpet and interior paint, I discovered that I had a pretty nasty firewall leak.  The evaporator housing for the (non-existent) A/C is a two part box that is sealed against the firewall.  The seal connecting those two box sides had leaks in it, as did the seal between the box and the firewall.  Also, there were no grommets around the heater core hoses, which probably wasn’t helping.  Anyway, this is a HUGE pain because I now have to completely remove the evaporator housing which requires taking the inner fender off.  I have to remove a thick layer of some kind of gunk a PO used to from the box AND from the firewall.  I’m taking this opportunity to remove the evaporator and dry from the box, plug up all the holes, and paint it to try to clean things in the engine compartment up a bit.  I’m also going to install the new inner fender while I’m at it.  Oh, and also repair the battery tray which has some corrosion left over from the “boiling battery” incident.  I’ll be covering the battery tray in an epoxy to help prevent further corrosion in the future.



I executed the stated plans.  Honestly, the worst part was getting that goo off.  I took two cans of brake cleaner.  Looks much better now!  Also: no leaks!  3m Strip Caulk FTW.

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Interior Updates

February 3rd, 2012 Comments off

Been busy!  I’ve been pushing hard to get a lot of the little stuff done so that this thing can go to paint as soon as I get to the new place (we’re getting a new house).   There I will have more garage space to disassemble it for prep.  Anyways, short list of what has been accomplished recently:

  • Had new vinyl gauge faces printed and applied them
  • Completed new LED gauge lighting
  • Added LED courtesy lighting
  • Installed LMC clear dome crystal and LED bulb
  • Shot the corner speaker boxes I got from with bed liner
  • Added acoustic mat on the rear wall of the cab
  • Painted break booster and lines
  • Installed a new master cylinder
  • Installed a new chrome alternator bracket
  • Installed the new steering wheel
  • Stripped the old paint off the door panels and sprayed on bed liner (to go with the new armrests I got!)
  • Installed new inner window seal on the door panels
  • Started adding the lighting in the wiper panel and temp controls
In the process of all this though, I discovered a leak around the AC/Heater box on the firewall.  So next order of business is getting that cleaned up and resealed.
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LMC Awesomeness

January 20th, 2012 Comments off

Since I started this project, I’ve spent more than a few bucks at the Long Motor Corporation.  LMC sells just about everything you can imagine for ’73-’87 trucks.  The use lots of exploded views in their catalog too, so if you find your self with a bunch of random parts and no memory of how those parts went together it can be a super handy resource (assuming you don’t have a shop manual – and a lot of times the LMC views are better in my opinion).

Ever since my renewed push a few weeks ago to get this project completed, I’ve put in a lot of orders with them for the various parts I needed.  That included new bumpers, carpet and sound deadening, paint, door trim, seat belts, cab mounts and various other items.  Basically, everything that I have been putting off buying for the last few years.   Apparently, I made them pretty happy because they sent me a hand written thank you card.

I think I’ve crossed the line of no return.

(EDIT: Ok, I just received ANOTHER hand written note that looks exactly the same.  So probably anything over a couple hundred dollars gets ya one.  Still, it’s pretty cool!)

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It’s Coming Like a Storm…

January 18th, 2012 Comments off

So let me give you the skinny in the 15 minutes I have before lunch:

I had sort of given up on the truck.  After the whole thing with the floorpans, I was really bummed.  I felt like it was the death toll on any hopes of ever having decent bodywork done.  Plus I had come to the estimation that to have a decent paint job, I was going to be looking at about $6k.  Add to that the fact that it seemed like no matter what, there was always some mechanical or electrical problem with the thing.

I had decided the best thing to do was sell the truck and get something more reliable and less beat-up looking that could tow.  This meant compromising and getting a SUV (I hate SUVs).  My wife – who is an absolute saint – gave me the green light to get a Toyota FJ.  It meant that my DD wouldn’t get great gas mileage, but it would look pretty cool (IMHO) and be able to tow.

But then I ran into Joe and Bo.  They are actually neighbors that I bumped into while flying RC planes in a field near the house.  Bo is a veteran autobody mechanic and Joe is a hot rodder – they are both incredibly well versed in all things automobile.  Also they are both supremely fantastic human beings and I’m proud to consider them both friends.  I had them look the truck over and it appears that I’ve been doing a lot of panicking for now reason.  Bo quoted me an AMAZING price to do the body work and paint, and Joe and Bo are helping me get everything sorted mechanically.  Just working on it for one evening the thing is running better than it ever has.

The upshot of this is that I will NOT have to buy an SUV.  Getting everything I want done to the truck will cost less than the down payment on a new vehicle (far less) and according to the experts, I will have an extremely mechanically sound and sharp looking ride.  It is funny to me that I had put the restoration on hold for financial reasons and that in the end is allowing me to save a huge amount of cash.

My beautiful wife let me know that the whole time I was considering buying the FJ she was secretly throwing up in her mouth a little because she hates FJs.  The truck (when painted) she has agreed will be a much better fit in the driveway.  She gave me the go ahead to get the parts and whatnot and get moving.  Bo has already gotten new doors for me and painted them so this is for real happening.

I’ll try to do some more posts here in the next little bit that go over the new updates on the gauges, interior work and the new parts I’ve gotten!



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Lessons on Battery Cables and the Benefits of Diligent Research

February 4th, 2011 Comments off

Well it HAS been a while hasn’t it?  A lot has changed!  I finally found an excellent trustworthy mechanic.  As a result, some major problems have been fixed: primarily, the oil pan has been replaced with a proper gasket and no longer leaks, and the steering box has been replaced.  Also, he tuned it up.  And holy crap.  It is a different truck entirely now – it runs GREAT.  He also gave me the good news that my engine is (and these are his words here) “really a hot rod”.  I had always HOPED as much, but never knew for sure since I have little to compare it to.  And since the new steering box makes the thing actually drivable, I’ve really had a lot of fun.

When I first got it back a few days ago I immediately addressed some concerns.  First, the mechanic spotted a hole in my power steering reservoir so I went ahead and replaced that.  It was the least I could do seeing as how I put that hole there myself with a crowbar.  My bad.  I also replaced the starter as the old oil leak had really ruined it.  By the way: if you ever want to melt the terminal clamps on your battery cables and see your battery boil over,  just be careless and forget to re-route that starter cable properly.  That was an exciting time.

After some new cables and connectors, everything was running again (oddly, that boiled-over battery seems to be hanging in there).  I also took the chance to chase down the battery drain that has killed so many batteries of mine in the past.  It was the aftermarket tach, as it turns out.  So I will have to snag a new one and perform some dash cluster surgery.  I also replaced the fuel filter (man, I GOTTA replace that fuel tank).

I drove it to work today and it did great on the way there – but when I drove it at lunch time it suddenly developed a really loud knock-ish sort of sound.  I am 99% sure it is an exhaust leak brought on by either the freaking exhaust manifold gasket again, or more likely, I have disintegrated yet another set of manifold-to-exhaust donut thingies.  not sure why they keep burning up, but they do.  I’ll have to do some research.

Excellent segue.  Research is good.  While I was under there looking at my exhaust I notice a little drop of oil.  No where NEAR as much oil as I used to see under there – but definitely “freshly leaked” oil.  Now, before I could never tell where the oil was coming from because, well, everything leaked.  But now that the pan no longer leaks, and I replaced the valve cover gaskets a while back and they no longer leak.  So where is this oil coming from?  And it oil mind you – not ATF.  Not that it doesn’t leak ATF (it does) but this is way up front and also oil-colored.  After snooping around I notice that the seal around the fuel pump is soaked with oil.  Rats!  I was the one who replaced that.  But upon closer inspection I realized that there are two bolt holes right next to the fuel pump.  The bottom one appeared to have a lot of oil around it.  Then my little brain began to churn because AGES ago when I was researching engine numbers I remembered reading about a bolt hole down there that leaks during high RPMs.  And sure enough.  THERE IS SUPPOSED TO BE A BOLT IN IT!

I’m still going to replace the fuel pump gasket just for due diligence, but I will also be plugging that hole.  When I die, two things will be said about me: 1) “He wasn’t all that smart” and 2) “That engine never leaked oil again”.

Oh!  Also I installed a rear-view mirror.  Those things are really handy!  They should come standard.  Next on the list are new windshield, gas tank, transmission leak and doors.  Not necessarily in that order.

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The Big ToDo

March 17th, 2010 Comments off

I’ve decided I need a huge todo list.  This is mainly so I can actually see the list of things getting smaller.  I’ve decided to use a little WP plugin for this, as keeping lists by hand is so 20th century.


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Gauges in!

March 9th, 2010 Comments off

I’ve actually gotten a lot more done than my posting frequency would indicate.  Winter really took the wind out of my sails: every time I would get the motivation to get back to work I’d realize that it was too cold for paint to set, or that I hit another “I need an air compressor for that” moment.

But some progress was made.  Mainly, I got the gauge cluster done.  That turned out to be a huge project, but rewarding one.  The gauge migrations worked fine – the fuel gauge is in it’s new smaller home, and the new tach looks SICK.  I really like it.  I’m not sure its accurate – but it moves!  The illumination looks almost how I wanted it, but it is close enough.  It’s certainly red.  Looks orange in the pictures – but that’s just the camera.  With the bezel on it looks even better.  I ended up just using my paper mockups instead of going vinyl – but I think that will prove to be a bad move, as they are already curling a bit.  Meh.  I can always fix that later – the hard part was the stupid LED lighting.

I had to do major surgery on the two cluster bezels I had.  One had the correct ac vents, but was in bad shape otherwise.  So I frankenstiened them together.  Still have a bit more fiberglass and filler work to do on that, then paint.  But I will now have the correct AC vents and a proper cutout for the stereo.

Next on the agenda is finishing up the bezel details, wiring in a shutoff for the STUPID POSIVENT system (which I despise) and then glassing the dash.  That one is going to be a full weekend project, but TOTALLY worth it.  I have some stuff I need to pay off before I spend anymore on the truck, so we’ll see how it goes.

I also finally got a new ride!  I picked up a 2007 Saturn ION for a very good price.  I loooooooooooove this car.  It is weird, because other than the truck I’ve never had an American vehicle.  And now I own two GMs!  Honestly, the build quality of the ION is right up there with my 1999 Corolla (my previous daily driver).  For the record – I LOVED my Corolla.  215,000 miles – and I had to take it to the shop ONE time.  But it was time to move on.  So I moved on to a silver ION!

Oh! I also did some sweet work on the grill that I will have to take a pic of.


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Gauge Cluster Work

January 17th, 2010 Comments off

I’m posting some pics of my new floor pans.  It is really nice not fearing my feet falling through the floor 🙂

I had originally wanted to finish the floor of the interior with bedliner and leave it at that.  But my first winter with the truck has convinced me otherwise.  Also, I don’t think it would look quite right with the replacement floor pans.  So my new plan is to fill the few holes that are left (just small holes in the caulk where the floor pans were replaced) to make sure no water gets in, then spray in the bedliner, then put in a die-cut heat and noise reduction pad and then a carpet kit.  The carpet and noise reduction kit will be a little over $200 from LMC, which is a bargain if you ask me.

Gauge work is coming along.  My master plan with the gauges has ballooned a bit, but it is certainly doable.  And a pretty good focus for cold-weather projects.  Currently, the gauges work as follows:  there are four ~ 2″ (nonworking) gauges on the left.  Those were clock, temp, volts, and oil pressure.  In fairness, the voltmeter works still.  but it is the only one.  On the right are two ~5″ gauges.  They are the speedo and fuel.  (You know what is ridiculous?  A 5″ fuel gauge.  Waste of space.)

The truck came with some aftermarket gauges as well mounted to the dash.  A 2″ tach and a gauge cluster of mechanical oil pressure, temp, and volts.   This cluster type also came in arrangements where the fuel was in one of the small gauge slots.  So I figured “Hey, GM probably used the same gauge for them both with just a different face, right?”  So the plan was: migrate the fuel gauge from the large slot into the small one, then migrate the aftermarket tach innards behind the face where the fuel used to be and migrate the aftermarket gauge cluster innards into the small slots.  Then I’ll design new gauge faces and have them printed on adhesive backed vinyl by PostNet.  And of course replace all the lighting with LED lighting while I’m in there.

Well, that is a lot of work, so I’m not done yet.  So far I have moved the fuel behind the face where the clock used to be.  I’ve also designed some new faces in Illustrator (printing out mockups on transparency paper to test them out and line things up just right).  I haven’t really tested out the fuel gauge yet.  I’ll have to rewire it into its new location and mess around with the needle to get it pointed right.  (That, or I’ll break it trying)

I won’t really be able to use the original aftermarket cluster as it turns out, because the needles sweep in the wrong direction.  But SunPro makes another similar set that will work too.  They’re just $25.

I’m going to start illumination experiments tomorrow.  I’ll be wiring in a whole new set of LED illumination.

I noticed something funny when I was testing out all the traces on the back of the cluster (in case I accidentally screw something up).  Now I preface this with “I am not an electrical engineer, and I’m not used to working on circuits that have incandescent bulbs in them.”  I was doing some tests on the pins in the pigtail that goes into the cluster when I noticed that all but two of the pins had continuity with the chassis.  This was weird to me – because I knew for a fact that two of the pins went to the high-beam indicator light.  That meant both pins were grounded out somehow!  After checking with my bud Dan and posting on the forums, I discovered that the signal was backtracking through other bulbs and systems in the truck (they’re bulbs – not diodes!  Duh…).  So mystery solved – but it made for some confused moments from yours truly.

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Dash Crystal Repair

January 6th, 2010 Comments off

The truck is back home!  New floor pans and rockers have been welded in place – so my foot is no longer in danger of going through the floor.  And that is nice.  It makes me realize how much work I have to on the doors.  They are pretty beat up – and one of them is gnarly enough along the bottom that it is in danger of doing some rubbing on the rocker.  In fact some of the new primer is already warn off.  New door shells may be in my future.

But now that I have it back, I want to get cracking.  I’m tackling instrument panel stuff because I can do some of that indoors – and it is wicked cold right now.  I’ve decided I’m just going to muscle the instruments I want into place.  But before I do that, I have to do something about this nasty crystal – it is mostly scratches.  I tried to polish it out – but it is actually old enough that the plastic has started to yellow.

First problem – a vast majority of the tabs on it are broken off, which is pretty common on these trucks.  I looked around, but it looks like most people are just replacing them.  I don’t particularly want to spend any dough on it.  And I already have some thin Lexan.  and some brass sheet.

Each tab has a hole for a mounting screw in it.  The failure usually results in part of the plastic surrounding the hole to break away, leaving a partial hole which is pretty useless.  But it is enough to act as an anchor point!  So I cut out some appropriately shaped brass reinforcements, carved out some Lexan bits to make up for the missing plastic that had long ago fallen away, scuffed up all the bits with sand paper for better adhesion, and put it all together with 2ton epoxy.    The finished product is remarkably strong.  Certainly stronger than the original plastic.

Next up:  replacing the old nasty bits of foggy plastic with new crystal clear Lexan!

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