Monday, November 26, 2007

Old cars for Turkey Day

Took a ride out with the kids to Tipp City Ohio to spend the Thanksgiving weekend with grandma. She has an old farmhouse with a barn, and in the barn her son-in-law has stashed a '67 GTO. Its in pretty rough shape -- he had bought it for its interior and put it in the barn to store it until he could get at swapping interiors. Unfortunately, he left one of the windows down and a raccoon took up residence in it. The raccoon was found dead in the car, having destroyed and eating most of the car's interior. About a month later, a possum was found next to the raccoon.

Her son-in-law does have a '66 GTO in his garage that is in very drivable shape. Red with black interior, it is a 400CI 4-speed and really sharp. He also has a 25th anne. Vette in the garage.

On the way back from visiting those cars, we stopped at a family friends house to look at his '56 Chevy 210 2-door hardtop. This car was beyond immaculate; absolutely top-dog show car. He gave $30,000 but you couldn't built it for that.... car must have been in the $60,000 range. Even the undercarriage had full paint. 327 with dual 4 barrel carbs; chrome everywhere. I couldn't even start to remember every upgrade -- but things were just as new on the car. I personally wouldn't ever wanted to have a car like that because you can never drive it anywhere for fear of rocks, dings and even getting it dirty for that matter.

All-in-all really fun to talk cars with these guys.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Washed and put away

I washed the car, took it around the block for what I think will be the last time until Spring. Sad time in North East. :-) Anyway, for this winter, I'd like to get the intake manifold leaks and the tranny leak fixed. I have been so tempted to buy a GM A-Body power disc conversion kit on eBay -- but that will have to wait for next year I think.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Success, finally success. I can hardly believe I've had the car almost 5 months; and that it has taken me this long to get the car inspected... but it is done and the car is legal to be on the road finally. So the goal over this upcoming winter will be to really address the existing leaks, replace the electrical socket(s?) for the tail lights -- but in general, try to keep the car generally drivable; and not get it in a position where there are several projects going at once keeping it off the road. I fear having it sit in the garage for years at a time, and getting the car back into the position that it is off the road for 6 years.

When I think back at everything that has been done to the car to get it on the road, there really was quite a bit of effort put in; but at least for now that this is a good hobby for me because all this effort really doesn't seem like work, it feels good to get things working or fixed, and I am enjoying the experience. It sure seems a lot easier to enjoy the effort when you can take the car out on the road and drive it around.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Exhaust pipes corrected, brakes and head lights.

I did get the car back in to have the passenger side exhaust fixed up; since it was too tight to the body and was banging and rubbing when it was rolling down the road. The exhaust has a beautiful sound now that really mellows out going down the road. It is just a touch too loud at 55 and the motor is only spinning about 2000RPMs, but hey, what is a muscle car without a little engine noise?

I've bled the brakes a couple of times now and they still seem squishy. I got some advice that when I'm bleeding that I should open the bleed value, and have a partner slowly push down on the brake; but then HOLD it down; while I tighten up the bleed value. Repeat until no air comes out. This prevents air from sucking back into the line, which I think may have been happening on my previous attempts. This makes a great deal of sense, so another bleed sounds in order. If this doesn't address the issues; it looks like a new master cylinder is soon to be in my future.

I did have the headlights go out on me driving down the road again -- and my foot wasn't on it this time :-), but I still suspect that the foot operated switch is part of the shorting issue; and given it is really easy to replace, I may just go ahead and do that.

And as a final note, I did try to slip it through an inspection this past weekend. I lost a cable hanger, and so to keep the cable off the drive shaft, I had installed a spring where the hanger used to be. The eBrake pedal would set and I thought maybe if they weren't too careful or lazy they might miss it... but when you roll into a service station with a 2002 sticker in 2007, they kind of get suspicious and put it through the paces. The kid was cool though and didn't charge me for the failed attempt...

Friday, October 12, 2007


I've been perplexed by the 68 Tempest/LeMans/GTO signal and flasher wiring for some time. I thought I understood the circuit; which lead me to believe that the flasher switch which is integrated into the turn signal switch in the steering column as shown below:

(Apologies for the blurry picture.) At any rate, I was able to use jumper wires below the steering column to get "flasher" behavior and this said to me that the problem had to be in the steering column turn signal switch and harness.

When I got the new repro harness and switch, I was astonished that it did not address the problem. I tried a number of different alternatives to diagnose where the problem was -- and I did notice that while I had a good fuse in the hazard lights slot, I did not notice the actual slot was dead; when it should have power. At this point, I went to the wiring diagrams to try to figure out how the wires went into the fuse block; with the idea that for now; I would bypass the fuse block and run an inline fuse to the flasher... bypassing whatever problem was actually going on in the fuse block -- saving that problem for another time -- like a winter time project.

At any rate, I went to the performance years forum to get advise. Unbelievably, it turns out there are actually two different flasher units; one for the turn signals and one for the hazard lights. One complication of the circuits is that different power sources are required for turn signals and hazards. Hazard lights are operational at all times for the car; whereas turn signals only operate when the ignition key is switched.

At any rate, the T/S switch is up near the steering column and this is the one that I've replaced and played with these past months. There is also one which is mounted to the fuse block which drives the hazard lights. When I looked at my fuse block, the flasher unit was missing! Well this is certainly at least part of the problem. I happened to have a spare flasher, plugged it in and viola! Flashers.

I believe that I'm now down to finishing the backup lights to pass inspection. I have that whole circuit wired, I just need to install the switch in the "exact" spot that causes the switch to trigger when the shifter is in reverse. That "exact" spot I've played with already, and there isn't a lot of room for error and I'm looking forward to alot of excitement getting it installed.

All in all it has taken me way, way longer to get the car into this shape; and while I think I am disappointed it has taken so long; I sure have gotten a variety of things fixed on the car through the journey.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Blown Fuse and Blown Mind

Took a few minutes and looked for a blown fuse to see if that was causing the dash lights from working. Sure enough, blown fuse. Had to run out to the gas station to pickup a 20-amp version and viola! Dash Lights.

It was so nice out the other night, I took it out with my dash lights fixed and noticed something interesting. The 68 has its bright light switch on the floor, a foot activated switch, just up under the emergency brake. During night driving I got used to driving with my foot on the switch -- so when encountering oncoming traffic, you can just flick your ankle and switch from brights to normal lights; and then back when the car passed. This habit was one that was burned in from when I was a kid, driving my 67 Mercury Cougar, which had the same bright light switch.

I noticed that when I braked, the lights would flicker. Then I realized, that when I put on the brakes, my body weight would transfer forward and cause my foot to depress the switch slightly, causing the circuit to the headlights to fail -- thus shutting off the lights. When I let off the brakes, they would jump right back on! When I moved my foot position away from the switch, the lights behaved perfectly; I had to laugh. It kind of blows your mind the funny things that go wrong with old cars.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Brakes bled

I went to another auto store to buy some hose but they only had a very expensive kit; but the guy at the counter said, all you need is the hose and bleed it into a jar. Keep the jar higher than the bleeding screw and pump out the brake fluid until there are no more bubbles in the hose. Well, this I already knew, but I needed the right size hose, and they didn't have any. The clerk did suggest I try going to Home Depot and get some.

I picked up some 3/8-inch transparent hose in a 20ft loop -- no it wasn't worth trying to find it by the foot :-) Worked really good; although I seem to be clumsy because I keep spilling the brake fluid... this makes every project 2 times as long, because it takes me as long to just clean up my stupid mess.

Brakes are good -- but in driving the car at night; the dash lights are out (they were working previously) and the headlights seem to have a short while driving as they go out for instant and back in... not exactly warm and fuzzy driving on a dark night.

Anyway, I guess it's progress -- the brakes are much better and don't feel spoungy any more.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Learning is expensive

I wound up ordering a new Horn Relay and Turn Signal Switches. These set me back close to $200. I thought I had debugged these issues however after plugging both new parts in, neither the horn nor the flashers worked with these new parts.

After making no progress, I went back to my Hayne's Electrical Manual, and I discovered that instead of applying power to the switch terminal, I should have been grounding it. This was expensive, as I believe my original Horn Relay is probably functioning well. (I saved it and might sell on eBay at some point.) At any rate, the Horn Relay Switch has 4 terminals.

RH-Back -- Horn Switch (activates when grounded)
RH- Front -- Horn
Middle -- Power (12-volts)
LH -- Buzzer Switch

The wire running to the Horn Relay power terminal had no power, and I discovered that this wire, while bundled in the wire bundles running up to the distributor, it was cut and basically didn't run anywhere. On the wiring diagram, this wire should run to the voltage regulator -- which I discovered was missing! When inquiring on the Pontiac forums, I have learned that the alternator that was installed by the previous owner actually has an internal voltage regulator built-in; which probably why the external one that is standard equipment on this car was removed. I rewired this switch to the alternator, reconnected the wire running along the Driver's side fender well to the RH-Front switch (it was dangling) -- and when I grounded the back switch, the horn blared!

Finishing the job of the horn, I had to buy a non-standard cancel cam that has a cut out for a horn peg. This slot in the cancel cam was not actually part of the original equipment, but was actually needed by the horn switch of the steering wheel I bought off of eBay. Seems like that hardware was at least a '69 or maybe even as last as a '70. Anyway, the horn now works from all 3 buttons on the steering wheel. Another part I'll probably put up on eBay one of these days.

The new turn signal switch didn't clear up my flasher problem either. Both the right and left directionals work, but the flashers do not. I was able to get a "flasher" behavior by completing the circuits that I thought should be completed, and this made me think, ok the flasher switch which is integrated with the turn signals. Got the new switch and wired it in, and nothing. Same problem. I went back to the books and everything pointed to the flasher switch. I've already replaced it -- well, at least with a part I got from the previous owner. I bought a new switch and nothing. I had already verified the fuse was good visually, and so I pulled the fuse thinking this has got to be the problem. I tested the fuse with a test-light and the fuse was just fine. Then I tested the fuse box... and that slot in the fuse box seems to be bad. I'm a little confused why a separate fuse is required for flashers, when both sides of the directionals are functional. At any rate, I'm thinking the only difference I can think of is that the directionals only work when the key is turned on, whereas the flashers generally work without a key. Anyway, dead slot in the fuse box, and I have lead going forward.

Fixing the parking brake turned out to be fairly painless. I loosened up the brake line fastener to give the line alot of slack. I added the hanger; one of the parts that came with the car, and the line actually was fairly taut before I got after the fastener. A few turns and the line was fairly taut. Inside a few clicks and the emergency brakes were on.

I tried to bleed the lines, using a one-man's brake bleeding kit. The kit came with hoses that are supposed to fit onto the bleeding screws on the back of the wheel cylinders. The front bleeding screws were too big, and I had to stretch the hoses to get them on. I bled each front, and then each back -- the back screws fit great. I made sure that the master cylinder reservoir did not get more than 2/3's empty and I refilled it after each wheel. The brakes are still spongy and I'm not sure, but I think the fronts didn't go so well. That's stretched hose might have let air back into the lines. I don't know.

Anyway, so 3 remaining issues for inspection. I need to finish the backup lights, get the brakes back in order, and finish debugging the flashers.

All in all a bit of progress this weekend, but I really had hoped to get it further along.

Monday, September 24, 2007

New Exhaust

After reviewing my options, and taking the car to a local mechanic, I opted to have a custom dual exhaust installed. Because the car has a Chevy 350 and Hedman Headers, any solution I came up with was going to involve some custom pipe work. After crawling under the car and looking at the condition of the existing exhaust pipes, I decided to replace the whole lot from the headers back.

In researching local businesses, there just aren't that many shops that do custom exhaust -- but I did find C's Auto Custom Exhaust here in Poughkeepsie. I had originally wanted Flowmaster 50s; and was all set to have them installed using "409" pipe, which has a blend of stainless steel for longer life. Apparently though, the Flowmasters were back ordered, so they offered me Magnaflo Stainless Steel mufflers at the same price.

It does sound nice... real nice low rumble taking off and very quiet and smooth at speed. On the short drive home though, I developed a bit of a rattle that is definitely exhaust related... I didn't have any time this evening to crawl under there and see if I can see what is rattling -- anyway, I might have to take the car back to get the rattle tightened down.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


One of the aspects of owning an old car is the incredibly strong feelings one has when you do something stupid to it. I was pulling it out of the garage and no other excuse, just didn't get it clear before I started turning it to spin it around.


In the meantime, I've been searching for an exhaust shop that can do custom exhaust in the area -- you'd think this would not be difficult. When I was younger, it seemed like everybody had some form of custom exhaust. From the research I've done, I 'd like to replace the glass-packs with FlowMaster 50 mufflers. Since it is a convertible, I do not want to have reverb (a problem apparently with the FlowMaster 40s) and I do not want to have the loudness of a glass-pack -- although they do sound cool, its just too loud -- well especially since one of them is rotted through.

I have taken pictures of the rear-end for the experts on the Performance Year's forum to verify it is the heavy-duty rear-end. I did find a cast "N" on the snout side, which would make my day.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Some progress

I've slipped in a vacation and had some additional house work which has delayed some of my efforts on getting this car inspected. I just haven't had the time I would like to work on the car, but I suppose, priority-wise, I am working on the right things.

I have however had time to be scouring eBay for 68 Lemans/GTO parts; looking for interesting ideas and getting a feel for how expensive certain things are. I've picked up:
  • A working GTO Rally Clock which will install into the 3rd empty dash hole. There are really two ideas for this hole, the Rally Clock, and an in-Dash Tach. I opted to search for a clock since I am wanting to put a GTO hood on the Lemans (although no GTO emblems or such) and I think I've opted for a new hood tach, since I have an HEI distributor upgrade.
  • A used dash face bezel which does not have the radio holes cut out. My dash has a modern box cd/radio cut into it, and this dash bezel will allow me to restore the dash to a more original look should I desire to do so.
  • 66-72 New York State License Plates which I hope to get put on the car soon. The key factor will be whether or not the number is available, and I did not verify this prior to buying the plates -- they seem to go pretty easy on eBay -- if I cannot get the number registered (because some else is using a different years plates with the same number) then I'll just put these up for sale again and buy another set later.
  • 3 rear GM seat belts for $72; which I've actually installed. I soaked the original seat belt bolts in the penetrating catylist, and put some anti-seize lube on them. The seat belts are used and not show quality. I guess I'll keep my eye out for a really cheap deal, but show quality belts are going for anywhere from $175-$350 dependent on quality and what's actually in the package.
  • An engine compartment hood light.
  • New NOS GM door lock stems. The car came with some cheezy "dice" stems.
  • A wood-grained upgraded GTO steering wheel (not the hardwood model which seems to go for about $500). This replaces a very ugly Grant "racing" steering wheel and really the interior a much more stock, natural look.
After installing the seat belts, I took my girls to the drive-in last night which was really cool. We did good getting there and back -- however, in driving back, the headlights went out for an instant (driving lights still on) and then back on... and then again a second later. Drove it straight home and obviously have something not quite right there. My guess is the grounds to the headlights aren't quite solid and it causes it to fail intermittently. Also, after watching two movies running the stereo and some internal lights, the battery was just barely able to crank the motor -- luckily the car likes to start right up and it didn't turn out to be a problem. I would expect a battery charge to hold longer than that, although the battery is supposed to be only a few months old.

On the inspection front I have the following left:
  • Replace the mufflers. The hole in the driver's side muffler really adds just a bit too much "ambiance" to the sound for me; and it probably isn't too, too wise driving the car around at this decibel level. I am leaning towards FlowMaster 50-s because I want the car a little quieter than the 40s (since its a convertible) and because the 50-s look like they come in a size I can just plug replace the cherry-bomb glass-packs that are on it now.
  • Adjust parking brake. I've been under the car a couple times and in looking at this issue, it seems that I'm missing a cable hanger, which may be in the box of parts I got... I've seen an s-shaped wire floating around, which looks suspiciously like the cable hanger.
  • Horn and Flashers. When Larry was here, he put on the stock steering wheel, but the horn mechanism doesn't quite match, and we are thinking the steering wheel really is a '69 and the horn relay seems to be slightly different, which seems to require a notch in the receiver stem to hold the mechanism in place -- something apparently the '68 didn't need. Also, I have traced the interior wires to the horn to terminate inside the engine compartment and that has to be run inside the passenger compartment and wired to the horn. Haven't debugged the flasher issue at all, but I have already noted that I've replaced the flasher unit in the dash already, but didn't correct this issue.
  • Backup Lights. I'm still only 1/2 way through getting the backup lights wired.
Other issues that I am limping along with and need to get corrected:
  • Engine leak. The thermostat housing is leaking and needs to be addressed. Should be trivial when I get the time. It does need a tune up as well.
  • Transmission leak. I still haven't addressed the transmission leak, but in reading forums and such, the TH-400 seems to be prone to leak, and I'm thinking that the next step is to look at what it will take to replace the dip stick shroud.
  • Read End leak. I need to identify my rear-end -- it is a 10-bolt, but I don't know if it is the heavy duty kind, and I have no idea what kind of gearing is in there -- posi or whether it is stock gears or upgraded to 3.55 or higher. I suspect it is stock 2.93 because my RPMs in 4th gear at 60 is a little over 2,000. If the rear-end gear was higher, like 3.55 or so, I would think the RPMs would range from 3,000-3,500 at 60.
  • Door Locks. I do not have keys to the door locks; I have ignition and trunk keys. I need to have copies made of the keys I do have, and I plan to go to real locksmith and get his opinion on what the best options are. There are plenty of complete replacements on eBay, so it's really a matter of trying to figure out what the easiest plan of attack is. One option will be power, remote locks which I am interested in pursuing.
  • Rear Light Sockets. I still sorely need to replace the rear light sockets to make them much more reliable.
I won't even list the upgrades that are running through my head.... one thing at a time -- its easy to let your mind wander... I really want to keep things realistic and to-date, I just haven't lots of time for much work yet.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Seat Belt Bolts

One of the projects I had given Larry was to see what can be done about the seat belt bolts. Those damn things were frozen solid and as I've previously blogged about, I'd tried even a propane torch to loosen them up. He made two suggestions: the first was we needed a 1/2 inch breaker-bar and the second was we get a 6-sided 13/16ths socket, rather than the 12-sided one I had. The 12-sided socket tends to round the edges of the bolt heads and a 6-side one would grip more of the bolt. I zipped down to Auto Zone and they had several length breaker-bars, and I went for the longest one (24-inches) having already done battle with the bolts and lost.

The bolts actually protrude through the floor pan and are open and accessible underneath. Larry had got under the car and scrubbed 39 years of grim, dirt and rust off of the visible parts of the bolts. He then shot some PB Penetrant Catalyst on them and let them sit overnight. The next morning he was able to spin 3 of the bolts fairly easily. The last one was a pain, but would spin about 1/4 revolution and stop. Larry sprayed some more penetrant on the bolt, wait 20 minutes, spin it another 1/4 revolution and it would stop. After a few iterations of 1/4 revolutions, it finally let loose and came out.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Look before you leap

My mother and step-father have been out the past week from Ohio and in the interest of keeping Larry busy, I've given him a few things to do on the Le Mans. The very first thing I wanted to get started on was to install the replacement quarter-window on the driver's side. I had scoured eBay and other vendors and finally found a replacement at Chicago Muscle Cars, an eBay vendor. It cost $75 for the replacement glass and $40 for the sash and weatherstripping -- all used, from original GM A-Body convertible. This window was missing when I purchased the car and is a top priority to fix and I was very excited to find a replacement!

The window came in great shape the past week and I've been waiting to get the opportunity to install it. We removed the backseat and pulled the back interior armrest panels. Behind the armrest panel, is a regulator access panel which lets you reach into the body and position and adjust the quarter window as shown in the picture below.

At any rate, when we pulled the access panel, surprise! The original quarter window was actually between the regulator and body panel inside the quarter panel. Holy smokes! I can't believe a window that size could hide down in there. Any rate, after cleaning up the rollers, we removed the top two and the bottom regular bolts, removed the top window stop, and loosened the bolts surrounding the crank. We were able to hit the 3 rollers on the regular slides and get the 'regular lift arm roller" into "sash channel cam" as seen in this diagram. It was helpful to have two sets of hands for this operation, but probably could be done with someone alone with more patience than I. In order to see how the stop was properly positioned, we wound up having to pull the interior and access panel off of the passenger side as well. As it turns out the window stop was improperly installed on the passenger side, and we addressed this before buttoning it back up.

In the diagram, (looking down on the window) you can see the top two adjustment bolts clearly in the cut outs and you can actually make out the bottom bolt as viewed through the access area.

After lubing the rollers and regulator slides, the quarter glass was moving up and down freely. We had to adjust the window at the top two bolts and bottom bolt on the regulator to get the window at the right angle to be flush along the side of the driver's side window as well as the stop to ensure proper height. Before we buttoned up the interior, we backed the car out of the garage and put the top up. My top doesn't seal on either side of the quarter glass and it appears the weatherstripping is either improperly installed or is for the wrong GM-A body style car.

Larry has been busily working on other things that I will post a little later. I guess the morale of this story is, look before you leap. I had assumed I would need a quarter glass replacement when the car actually was hiding the original. Until you actually tear into the car, you never actually know what you're dealing with. I could have saved some money by having torn apart the interior and access panel prior to ordering the replacement parts.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Nice weather, old car

Perfect weather in the North-east for driving around a rag-top this weekend. Went for about a 20-mile drive, and really the first time I've had it up at a steady 60-mph since I bought it. After parking the car for an hour or two, I noticed a quarter-sized drip of gear-oil from under the 10-bolt rear-end. Since the car was garaged for 3-years, I had been expecting some leaks; but I mistakenly thought I was through with seeing those leaks. I don't have any experience at all with working on rear-ends; so a bunch of research appears to be in my future. Since you really can't keep an eye on rear-end fluid levels or cannot refill them as easily as the tranny or motor, I don't think I'll be driving the car much until I figure out a strategy to solve this one.

Also, I was going to leave the car outside for the evening, so I put the top up; and as the top was rising a small stream of smoke started to drift up from under the dash around the switch. I did get the top up though; I was thankful it did not get stuck half-way. And then, just to top off all of it... trying to lock the car up; the door locks don't match the ignition or trunk.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tail Lights

After getting advice on the performance years forum, I basically have cleaned the sockets with my dremel, shot some electronics cleaner in there, dried and cleaned them, and then coated both the bulbs and sockets with dielectric grease. I get Lights, Brakes and signals, but they won't come on in combination so they suspected it may be ground. I grounded the housing to the negative battery cable to make sure I was getting a good ground and still no go.

When I bought the car, it came with a box of "spare parts" and in there was a new heavy duty flasher unit, which, after turning myself into a pretzel, I was able to replace easily enough. It sits in a prong clip up under the dash near the steering column and doesn't require any tools to remove. I can now do combinations of lights, but the flashers do not have a consistent speed. Given the flasher switch doesn't cause the flashers to come on, I suspect there is a problem in the steering column, and I'll probably just order new directional, flasher and a cancel cam. Pulling the steering wheel requires a specialized tool, which I don't own at the moment, so I'll have to pick one up. Last time I looked they were about $20. I haven't really liked the steering wheel that came with the car so I'm thinking of replacing one that looks more stock. A very close repro sells for about $395... but I'm not restoring this to stock configuration, so I am not as interested in having to restore factory correct parts and will probably opt for a less expensive one.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Backup Lights -- 1/2 way there

As part of doing the tail lights, I needed to fix the backup lights. They were not functioning. I took the console out, which exposed the B&M shifter. It does appear to be a B&M Megashifter, but my model looks a bit different. The installation completely hacked up the B&M base, presumably to force it into the console. The installation just is a plain boot, and the shifter indicator sits inside the console so that it isn't visible. It actually looks fairly clean, you just have to pay attention to what gear you have it in.

In the picture above you can see the shifter cable running up from below (red) and the now exposed shifter indicator (red peg above the black plastic indicator slide). There should be a reverse (backup) indicator switch and neutral safety switch which, when wired properly, will prevent the car from being started unless the car is in Park or Neutral, as starting car in another gear usually results in an unexpected, unpleasant experience. This shifter doesn't appear to ever be wired for lights and the "box" of spare parts did not have any switches included. A quick look on the web and I found both switches at Summit racing (really the same switch is used for either backup or neutral safety.) I ordered two last week so they would be here when I got back from my week vacation.

I took the picture above while testing the circuit with the switch inserted. But before I get ahead of myself, I had to trace the backup light wire in the wiring harness that runs along the driver's side of inside the body just along the trunk line and under the back seat, so once again the back seat gets pulled.

Ok, now, which one? Ah, a nice wiring diagram can come in handy. I have seen several for sale on ebay (colored schematics, plastic laminated) for about $12. They look pretty nice -- but I found the 68 Le Mans Service Manuals and Fischer Body Manuals online at Ron's Pontiac Page. These normally go for about $30 or so for a reprint, photocopy or CD. They don't appear to be copyrighted, so hey, more power to Ron! Anyway, a quick inspection shows that its the dreaded light-green wire that's the target. To test the backup lights, I cut the light green wire as it came out of the fuse box (make sure ignition key is off, it is hot!) and cut into the light green wire under the seat -- wired the switch in -- and what do you know, both reverse lights work when the switch is tripped.

That's pretty much all I got done for the day -- after running a wire under the carpet from the backseat to the shifter area, splicing it to the harness wire under the back seat and buttoned up the carpet -- I called it the day. Still need to mount the switch. I will mount both reverse and neutral safety switches. I'm still just trying to get it inspected, so I'll just wire up the neutral safety switches and run them under the carpet up to the dash and leave them for now.

One final comment is I have an intermittent short between the brakes and the dashboard flasher lights. It is currently not failing; so I'll have to wait until it happens again to diagnose that issue. Anyway -- 1/2 a step closer.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bolts, Bolts, Bolts... Arghh!

Spent about 90 minutes this morning trying to loosen what I feel is probably the easiest seatbelt bolt -- the one that doesn't have a cut off belt attached. I got my hand-held propane tank and heated the sucker up, using a fireproof mat to protect the surrounding surface. No luck.

This evening, looking around the Internet, I found this webpage which documents a 1929 Chevy Truck restoration. There some interesting material out there about dealing with frozen bolts and nuts. Of interest, apparently, if you really want to apply heat to bolts and have them expand fast enough to have a chance to break them loose, you need to use an acetylene torch. The propane torches you use to service plumbing lines heat up the bolts too slowly to really make a big difference.

Of a common thread is "impact wrench" is handy. I need to think about this one -- not sure if I want to invest in an impact wrench setup...

The bottomline is, it could be worse -- I can't imagine what parts on 78 year old vehicle are like to deal with... which coincidentally, just happens to be twice as old as the 39 year old in my garage.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tail Lights , Reverse Lights, and Seat Belt Bolts

Tail Lights

I am learning (perhaps relearning) that work on a old vehicle can take forever; and I can see it will take me quite some time to get this car road worthy. Continuing my tail light adventure a few things become clear. Firstly, at least on the driver's side, power is reaching the lamps and directional signal sockets, and they appear to have a reasonable ground. If I hold the bulbs tightly into the sockets the two lamp/directional bulbs light up. As I mentioned before, socket problems seem to be endemic on the 68 Lemans body style according to the forum at Performance Years. Pictured below is the rear bumper with driver's side lens removed.

The far right hand socket is in a state that makes it virtually impossible to spin a new light bulb into it. I figured, well maybe the original bulbs weren't 1157 bulbs. So I examine the bulb I'd pulled out of the socket the other day (still functional). See picture below (you will probably need to click on the picture to enlarge it enough to see the detail ):

The bulb is indeed an 1157 dual-filament directional, however at location 1 above, a lump of solder was added to hold the bulb firmly in the socket, but furthermore, at location 2, the socket guide nub has been sanded off so it no longer has to get into the socket groove to hold the bulb. So, rather than pull the bumper, the previous electrician has cheated in a manner in which I was hoping to do -- in an effort to get it on the road. I think one of the "winter" projects will be to pull the bumper and replace these sockets with modern sockets that can be serviced easily without pulling the bumper. I will be sorely tempted to re-chrome the rear bumper if I take the time to pull it, which appears to cost on the order of $350. I think I will experiment with various solder patches to get me through the inspection.

Reverse Lights

The reverse lights are not operating, but I've tested the bulbs. I need to crawl under the car and diagnose from the tranny up. Since this LeMans has a TH-400, and not the stock transmission -- I'm sure it will be pure excitement as nothing as been very straight-forward so far.

Seat Belt Bolts

I ordered 3 sets of lap belts to install in the rear seat. There are only places for 2 seat belts, but I was going to double up the middle set of bolts to allow for 3 smaller passengers in the rear seat. Because the LeMans is a convertible, the rear seat is not as wide as the hard top and 3 adults simply would not fit back there. I figure either there will be nobody back there, 2 adults or 3 children. Either way, the seat belt assemblies should be plenty sturdy to hold those potential passengers. I will take a look at shoulder belts at some later date. As I had mentioned in a previous blog, the old seat belts had been cut off. See below:

All 4 of the seat belt bolts are frozen. I will be trying to use a technique to free them which involves propane torch, using extreme heat to loosen the bolts, and vice grips to break them loose. From my readings, the bolts are tapered and are extremely painful to remove and even install for that matter. Snapping off the bolt head and having to resort to drilling the bolt out is a likely outcome for at least some of the bolts. I could not begin this effort this evening because I will not torch the bolts without a fire extinguisher handy... that would be an idiotic thing to do, even for me.

Front Directionals Installed Working

Last night I was able to install the directional housings and lenses. On the passenger's side, as noted in a previous blog, there was a ground wire added -- I presume because the ground is not solid throughout the car. Not really knowing what I'm doing at all, I installed another ground wither on the driver's side and made sure there was good metal contact with the housings and I have solid lights.

After turning my attention to the rear lights; pulling the lense covers and really having a tough time getting the bulbs out (even one was broken off), I realized that perhaps the sockets were toast. Unfortunately, it doesn't look serviceable without pulling the bumper. So, online I go to try to hunt down whether or not this is true. In my research I found an incredible forum of GTO and Lemans fanatics hosted by Performance Years, a Pontiac specialist. This really looks its going to be a great forum to ask for advice. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that there are tons of these forums out there for car nuts. Living in the internet age is definitely a plus when working on older cars. At any rate, I may try to screw around with the lights without pulling the bumper just yet -- was hoping I was getting closer to getting it on the road.

The funny part is that while scanning the forum entries, I found someone having problems with other lighting problems, and there was a great response to one of the entries that suggested adding a ground wire was fixing the symptom not the curing the problem. The problem is that the grounding straps probably need to be replaced or are missing and that proper ground throughout the car will solve many gremlins that may be lurking throughout the car. Sounds pretty reasonable -- also sounds like a good project for the winter time. :-)

Didn't have time to get a picture with the lenses off... but here is one of the car from the rear.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Electrical Systems

To say I'm a neophyte when it comes to electrical systems is to state the obvious. This is made even a further embarrassment given my chosen profession is software engineering. It is true that I had to take 3 semesters of physics and even several computer hardware classes -- all I can remember is my English-as-a-second-language professor mispronouncing the term SR-Flip Flop. At any rate, I was in Barnes and Nobles the other day and picked up Haynes Techbook Automotive Electrical Manual.

In the manual, there is a primer on simple electrical circuits, and just exactly how the circuits are formed and work, and specifically why they fail. The reason I bought the book was a section on diagnosing directional signals and it really made some things clear. The LeMans came to me with the front directional signal covers, lights, socket and brackets in a box in the trunk. The previous owner had every intention of rewiring the lights, as the bulb sockets were new; just never got around to it I guess. At any rate, if you look the picture below, you'll see something interesting. If you click on it, you can see the wiring better.

Since this is a single-bulb directional light, the bulb actually has two filaments, and needs two hot wires -- one for the flasher signal, but one also for the headlights. This looks perfect above as there is two "hot" wires, however when the right directional or lamp was illuminated, the wires would smoke and sizzle; an obvious short. At any rate, the top left wire with the blue connector is actually a ground wire running to the body! The only reason I could think that these would be wired this way is that they wanted to keep the wires out of the way, either during paint, or God knows why! At any rate... that's enough for today... except I'd like to show you another picture of wiring in the car... you just never know what you're going to find.

If you notice in the red ellipse, just a small problem with the wiring insulation.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

New Gasket Leaks

Well unfortunately, the new/pan and gasket did not seal and it has a small leak. I need to do some research on what could be the problem, as I really do not think I made any mistakes installing the gasket and new pan. I did examine and clean the mating surface and I did not see any obvious issues; there certainly was not any remaining gasket material. The only thing I can really think is the transmission may have a fracture that expands as the pan bolts reach 120 inch-lbs. As I was concerned that the engine and transmission might need a rebuild because of sitting for 3 years, it isn't horrifying news -- just unwelcome.

I'll try to remain undaunted to get the car inspected, try to ride out the problem this summer and prioritize this problem over the winter. I guess I better find a fluid catch pan for the garage floor.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Transmission Pan Cover, Filter and Gasket

I am pressing my luck blogging about my transmission pan gasket at this point, since this was round 2. For my first attempt, I tried to reuse the existing pan cover, buying a new filter, gasket kit. Pictured below is the original pan, and a picture of the failed attempt.

The gasket was the kind that is folded in a smaller box, presumably so the package takes up less room in the parts shop warehouse. It was a real bummer trying to get the gasket to flatten out so it could be installed; and after looking online, I found that petroleum jelly or oil-based grease could be used to stick the gasket to the pan while you were installing it. After one evening of sitting, the pan started leaking, as pictured below.

I truly believed the transmission pan to be hopelessly warped, even though I used a torque-wrench to tighten the bolts, first to 80 inch-lbs, and then finally to 120-inch lbs.

I ordered a B&M deep pan, which holds an extra 2-quarts of tranny fluid from which had a good price on the pan. It comes with new bolts (longer because of the thicker cast aluminum), a filter extension (to lower the filter into the deeper pan well), and a magnetic drain plug which is nice because it collects metal, but makes draining fluid much cleaner.

The gasket came inside the pan, but was not folded. It was cork (the other was felt). In order to help the gasket hold the correct shape; I went ahead and put it under the transmission pan overnight so it would flatten out and stay without the need for petroleum jelly. This worked out pretty well; as the gasket did maintain a flat shape while I installed it. In the picture below, the filter is the thin, metal wavy part that is suspended by a single 1/2 bolt, and attached to the filter fluid spout.

I pulled the fluid spout from the transmission and applied the extender:

This was inserted then back into the transmission, and the filter replaced. In order to hang lower, the kit comes with a bolt/nut for which you manipulate the filter until its level. Once the filter is level, you synch the nut down onto the transmission and that tightens up the bolt/nut pair, holding the filter level.

Replacing the new pan, I had to add 7 quarts of tranny fluid to accomodate the deeper pan, but also the transmission lines and cooler pictured in my previous blog.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Transmission Cooler Lines

Well, I got some time to start working on getting the Le Mans road worthy, and prioritized the transmission leaks to be first. There are pan leaks and cooler line leaks. I'll get to the pan gasket in a later entry... that saga isn't complete yet. The cooler lines were very simple to change out.

The area depicted above resides between the radiator and the front valence (front license plate and directionals mount in it) under the front grill. This picture is taken after the valence was lowered. There are actually two lines (one in, one out) although only one is visible from this photo, the other is lurking behind the center support for the valence and the horn. What ever yahoo installed them used 3/8-inch gas emission lines, rather than 3/8-inch transmission fluid lines. (you can actually read "fuel emmission" on the line if you click on the upper picture to enlarge it.) I'm not sure if it was the 3 years sitting or the wrong kind of lines that caused the leak -- but either way, doesn't give you warm and fuzzies about other work that might be done on the car.

So the transmission is a Turbo 400 Hydromatic, which is almost 100% sure not a stock portion of the drive train -- it has a B&M shifter, which definitely was not a factory installed option.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ye of Little Time

Well unfortunately, I haven't found any time to work on the vehicle in the past few days. The end of school year, a confirmation, year-end performances and ceremonies have taken a front seat to working on the car -- and rightly so. At any rate, I thought I'd post some pictures of the interior.

Hopefully, I'll get some time to work on the car soon...

Saturday, June 9, 2007

First Wash

Didn't see the point in posting pictures before its first wash... Well, so far I was able to install the front seat belts, and after releasing the parking brake (stuck down) I was able to verify the high beams work properly already.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

New York State Inspection

I've lived in New York almost 20 years and I have had to have every vehicle I've owned inspected every year, but I couldn't tell you what they inspected for specifically. Since I have lots of odds and ends to do to get things working, I thought I'd try to figure out what exactly they inspect. The list of inspection items are located at the New York DMV Website here.

Some of the things that need to be taken care of are:
  • Install front directional lights. They are present in reasonable shape (some damage to passenger side) however the wiring to their location appears to be shorting.
  • Install front seat belts. The car came with a restored interior, however the installation did not include the existing front pair of seat belts.
  • Acquire and install rear seat belts. According to the DMV, in 1968, you had to have 2 seat belts up front and one seat belt for every spot for a butt.
  • Wire horn. The steering wheel is after-market and the horn "button" is nonfunctional.
  • Hazard Lights. The hazard lights don't appear to function.
  • Parking brakes. I'm going to wimp out here in my anxiousness to get the car on the road and have the car inspected at a brake shop. I'll pay to have the brake system checked out and I'll have them fix the parking brakes as part of the inspection. The parking brake pedal is pushed to the floor and does not move.
  • Test Bright Lights. Hmmm, in reviewing the list of things to inspect, I realize I haven't tested the bright lights.
  • Replace Wiper Blades. The wiper motors work, but the blades are shot.
Luckily 1968 vehicles are exempt from emission testing.


On Monday I fulfilled a life-long dream of owning a 60s classic ride and I was able to purchase a 1968 Pontiac Lemans Convertible. Well I should say, I did own a 1967 Mercury Cougar when I was a kid... so perhaps I'm reliving a life-long dream. :-) I'm not someone who can buy something like a muscle car and not actually drive it; so I've never been interested in owning a museum car with extremely low miles -- or even restoring a car to museum quality, so a nice looking, nice sounding, nice riding car is the one for me. I will however have a lot of work to do to get it on the road, as it has been garaged for 3 years -- it has some leaks which may require a rebuild; but it also needs several other things just to get it through New York State Inspection.

I'm not an expert blogger either, so I thought I'd learn to blog about my experience of owning this car, and restoration. I'd keep track of cool links and pointers and other info... that maybe someone else would find useful or helpful... and along the way make contact with some other Lemans/GTO owners who can commiserate with the joy and pain of owning a ~40 year old car.

Pictures coming later... my first priority is to get it on the street... I have it registered, insured, and a temporary inspection sticker.