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.