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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
So what do you do when you're mid 20's, just achieved a lifelong career goal, love cars, and know a little bit about mechanical engineering? Buy a classic muscle car, obviously. That's the one line version of how this car came to be mine. I know myself well enough to know that, while I appreciate the hell out of them, I do not have the patience for a 6-9 year full ground up restoration, nor do I have the funds for a perfectly built 6 figures pro-touring beast. I wanted something basically done, that would be a fun, fast weekend cruiser, and reliable enough to drive 400 miles round trip to go to cars and coffee with my dad (who's owned many cool cars, but nothing like this) every so often. Other than that, all I really knew at the start is that I wanted a first gen, it had to have A/C, and I wanted it supercharged, both for the cool factor and the instant torque.

As I'm sure most of you know much better than me, cars like this are rarely ever 'done,' so this thread will be a chronicle of things that I've had to do and wanted to do to this car to make it everything I wanted, and probably, for the most part, a reasonable representation of what someone else looking for a mostly done driver can expect. Much of this has already been completed so I'm doing this retroactively, both to share and to help me keep track of everything I've done, and what I may have done differently knowing what I know now. Additionally I'll probably be asking several questions here and in other threads as this inevitably continues.

With all that out of the way, here she is on the day I picked her up:






















A very dark metallic blue '68 SS with a Weiand 142 sitting atop a 383 stroker which all fits nicely under the smallest of hood cowls. Previous owner I got it from didn't do the build so didn't have full specs, but was listed as 500hp, in front of a Turbo 400 with 3.42 rear gears. Clean interior, newer generation front bucket seats (driver's is electric!), [mostly] Auto Meter gauges, front discs, a cheesy aftermarket stereo and amp, working A/C. Basically everything I was looking for. Gave the man some cash and was on my way (quickly realizing the strangeness of a full manual valve body in an automatic transmission on a street car.. something I didn't even know to ask about beforehand). The plan was to drive it home from South Carolina to Texas over the next few days. Mistake #1.

I'll keep a long, stupid, expensive, hilarious (in a painful way) story short by saying I didn't make it home. Ended up stranded on the side of the road after midnight just west of Atlanta and had to leave the car with the nearest shop that seemed qualified to work on it so I could fly back home.



And that's how this all started...
 

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Very nice ride G. So what are you plans for her besides stability. :)

Brian
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Thanks guys!

So the story picks up from the side of the highway outside Atlanta. I had to get back home to start my new job, and shortly thereafter, a surprise 6 month deployment. Before leaving I discussed options with the shop, ranging from just put it on a trailer and send it home, to just fixing what was wrong with the motor, to a full LS3/4L80E swap for $12k. At this point I've put that much into it, but 18 hours after buying the car, I wasn't about to spend that much more. So the plan was for them to fix it back to the way it was. Communication was difficult while I was gone, but ultimately it got rebuilt.
















At least now I finally knew exactly what was in the engine.

- Bored/stroked 350 small block w/2 piece seals and 4 bolt mains
- 882 heads resurfaced with valve job and Scorpion roller rockers (meh, definitely paid too much for the refresh work on these)
- Eagle forged rotating assembly with H-beam rods
- Eagle forged dished pistons
- Hastings rings
- Clevite main bearings and rod bearings
- Comp valve springs, lifters, timing set
- Comp 12-560-4 NitrousHP hydraulic flat tappet cam
- And some random old ~600cfm Holley with vacuum secondaries



After 8 months, the car only made it home the day before I did. Without any upgrades to the transmission like I had originally wanted. I had thought that with 3.42 gears it would still be ok for highway driving, but at real highway speeds it was still turning 3500+ rpm. In addition to fixing the motor, I knew I needed overdrive. So instead of being dropped off at my house ready to run like I had hoped it was brought straight to a local transmission shop for a 700R4 swap. They had a much quicker turnaround, but found several other issues with the car, including separated oil pickup tube, poorly tuned carb, and worst of all, a seized blower. I don't know what in the world happened between being built at the engine shop and put in the car and sent home. Either the bearings were old and it was gonna fail anyway or they torqued it down too much and deformed it enough to cause contact.

Either way, this was the damage...




Good grief. Off to Dyers Blowers for a rebuild. Finally a week later the car was ready to pick up. The transmission shop still wasn't happy with the way it was running, but said they did their best. Basically what was happening was on startup, it wouldn't be running on all cylinders, but then after heating up, it would. More on that later.

So finally, at long last, I brought her home.

 

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Brett - Leander, Texas 1969 SS396
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Welcome from a fellow Texan! I'm in the Austin area. Where in Texas are you? I am installing a Tremec TKO600 5-speed and a 12 bolt posi with 3.73 gears in my 69. It will be nice to have an extra gear for Texas highway driving. It will be interesting to follow your progress.

Brett......
 

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Welcome to TC! Great looking car.

I do hope all that metal did not make it down into your new motor! Either way something sounds off there. Interested to hear the rest of the story :popcorn:
 

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Great read. Looking forward to the rest of the story. Very intriguing. Thanks for sharing this with us and thank you for serving for us too.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks guys!

Brett, I'm in the Abilene area. Pitt, luckily no motor damage occurred due to the blower lockup. J1M, it's pretty cool huh? Makes for more of a sleeper car with a classic look, you'd never know there was a roots blower under the hood. Even if it is a small one.


Anyway, back to the story.


So now, a full 10 months after initial purchase, I could finally start on the things I wanted to fix/change/tweak after that first drive.

On my first free weekend, this included:

- Replacing a couple exterior light bulbs here and there so everything worked, turn signals flashed at the correct rate, etc
- Fixing the wiring on the narrowband gauge that wasn't working and the backlight on the fuel gauge (it was fun driving at night with that not working while getting like 100 miles per tank..)
- Cleaning the whole car inside and out
- Fixing the trunk lock
- Fixed driver's side door panel fitment (had a huge gap at the top)
- Fixed loose C-pillar trim
- Fixed shift console lighting
- Attempted a fix for a small oil leak (didn't work)
- Adding a horn
- Adding a rear license plate light

Mostly quick, minor things as you can see but stuff that needed to be done to make it feel like a real, complete working car. I can't stand having random lights not working or trim pieces missing or whatever. The last 2 items on the list were necessary in order to be able to register the car, which I was eager to do, especially with the perfect 1968 plates my wife surprised me with upon returning home from the deployment:




Next came some actual part swaps. First up, the carburetor. It's a supercharged engine so I wanted a supercharger carb with a boost referenced power valve.

So, new Holley 750 double pumper from their supercharger line:



Out with the old



In with the new



Swapped over the electric choke from the old one cause the car was set up for electric




Unfortunately the car didn't run any better after the swap. In fact it now had a pretty significant off-idle stumble. I tried tweaking on the accelerator pumps a bit (incorrectly) and it helped a little, but still nowhere near as smooth as it should be. More on that later.


Next, the scale of the boost only gauge I had made it difficult to tell if I was actually making any boost pressure with the little blower, so I swapped it out to a more usable boost/vacuum gauge. Don't mind the random carbon fiber pattern gauge housing, not sure why someone chose that for this car vs flat black. I'll be changing that in the future.



Of course it was at this point that I realized a previous owner had painted all the bezels of the Auto Meter Sport Comp gauges, so a new one doesn't match..



Found some matching paint and got that fixed up, as well as the narrowband Air/Fuel gauge in the pillar. This worked well. I now saw a consistent 5-6 psi of boost pressure, which is right around what I'd expect for a Weiand 142 on a 383 with 6" lower and 2.66" upper pulley. Cool.

While all the other gauges were the Sport Comps, there was this really cheesy eBay style digital fuel pressure gauge in the other pillar slot. I could only ever get it to read "LO." My guess is it was probably meant for a fuel injected system so the 5-8 psi in a carb'd fuel system was too low for it. I yanked it out and temporarily replaced it with a voltmeter. Don't have any pics of that right now.

Finally, she definitely needed a chin spoiler to complete the look:





That's more like it!
 

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Geeze - you didn't just jump in with both feet - you landed running a full sprint lol. Keep up the good work! The wifey did good - those plates are cool :thumbsup:
 

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Brett - Leander, Texas 1969 SS396
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Maybe your wife can help me out. I have been looking and looking for original 1969 Texas plates. Are those old plates that you were able to use to register the car? Maybe she could give me a tip on where she was looking for them, lol.....

Brett....
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Pitt, I wanted to jump as far into the deep end as I could with my given budget, understanding of how cars work (which admittedly was a lot more theoretical via education than hands on), and time willing to spend working on it vs driving it. The limitations there were intended to be tempered by buying what was [supposed to be] a turn key driver that didn't require much work.

Brett, she searched for months while I was away. eBay and other sites that specialize in old plates. I can ask her for more detail if that's too generic. And yes those are the plates that I registered the car with. It depends a little on the individual you get at the DMV who looks at them, but they need to be in really good condition for them to accept. No rust, dents, paint chips, etc.



So at this point, the car looks good, everything works. Drove it to Dallas for cars and coffee with my dad and a couple other car shows that weekend. One being at Firewheel Classics, a place that specializes in first gen Camaros. There I was able to pick up a the dash trim piece that goes around the A/C vents and stereo - the car didn't come with one. Since it was all black anyway it didn't look too bad, but it's definitely much better with the trim piece.

Everything works.. except for the stereo that randomly cuts in and out. I'm big into music, car audio, and home audio, so this had to get fixed. Of course the car itself isn't exactly quiet so this would be nowhere near the kind of build in my other car that was focused on pure sound quality. But I gotta be able to cruise down the highway cranking some AC/DC! And it's gotta have enough DSP that I can do some time alignment and at least a little bit of EQ to make it sound decent. But I didn't want to spend a significant amount of time or money, so it had to be nice and clean and simple. I had about half of this gear laying around from old builds, so it was a pretty cheap but very worthwhile upgrade.

The system consists of:

- Alpine CDA-9887 head unit (has time alignment, parametric EQ, and independent level control functions as well as 4v outputs)
- Cerwin Vega B1 "Bomber Series" 500W mono amplifier (super compact size, but admittedly 68% of the reason I chose it was for its name)
- Cerwin Vega B4 80Wx4 multichannel amplifier (same series as the sub amp)
- JL Audio C2-650x coax speakers in new front kick panels
- Infinity 6x9's in the rear deck (they were there, didn't change them)
- Alpine Type R 10" subwoofer in a sealed enclosure
- Assorted 4 and 8ga power wire and distribution blocks
- Ixos RCA cables

Not a lot of in-progress pics of this build. It was one of those projects where I just wanted to get it done and didn't stop a whole lot for pictures.

New (old) head unit in along with the new trim piece (that I had to modify a little below the radio so that it could open for CDs. Not the most classic look but I need those DSP functions.



Amplifiers and associated wiring mounted under the passenger seat



Zoomed out a little to show how small these things are. You'd never know they were there. Seat slides back and forth just like normal.



Yanked out the old amp, cleaned up the trunk and the wiring, and mounted the subwoofer. Just barely fit height-wise. It's attached to the floor and to the bracing behind the rear seat with some steel brackets so it doesn't liberate itself during hard acceleration.





And finally the kick panel speakers. The kick panels are just thin plastic so I routed out a 1/2" wood ring that sits on the inside of the mounting surface to give them more support and reduce resonance/vibrations, along with some sound deadening material.



Of note if you ever plan on adding kick panel speakers, the grill of the driver's side speaker may touch the parking brake at some point during its travel depending on how thick it is.



Couple hours with the laptop and measurement microphone and got it sounding pretty darn good for a simple, inexpensive system. Cool.



Easy for the bass to get drowned out while driving so there's a little knob for the sub amp in the center console in addition to the controls through the head unit. Pretty quick to adjust if necessary.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Now for some other cosmetic stuff.

Got the stainless trim for the pedals. You can kinda see in some of the other pics but I don't really have a good one. Whatever, y'all know what they look like.




One of the only things that looked bad in the interior was the trim plate around the shifter and the ash tray at the back of the console:





I repainted the trim piece and cleaned the glass for the gear indicators, and replaced the console shell and ash tray:





Much better.


And of course I couldn't leave the trunk how it was with the old carpet and the sub just sitting there. So I planned to build some trim panels. But while I was researching audio equipment for the car I stumbled on Alien Enclosures who make CNC cut flat pack trunk panels. It'd take me 2 weeks to measure and cut something like this, so it was an easy choice to pick up one of their un-upholstered kits. Just a bit of sanding and had to cut one piece for fitment.

Mock up:



And here's how I'd upholster the whole thing. Black carpet for the main pieces, with white vinyl cutouts for some nice contrast:



Looks pretty darn good!







I think the white cutouts really play off the white stripes on the body nicely. There are matching black carpeted pieces for all of the white inset areas too so the whole thing can be blacked out if desired as well. No pics of that. It all holds itself together too. Nothing is drilled into the car or permanently attached or anything. Hides the sub and all the brackets and hardware and stuff. It's not much trouble to remove if more storage space is required or I need to get to something. I'll probably build a little tray to sit behind one or both side panels to hold some detailing stuff and spare parts at some point. But for now, I'm very happy with the way it looks.
 

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Looks great. Really like the white stripes on the dark blue.

Fyi....I think the trunk weather strip is installed upside down. Didn't think that was even possible.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Fyi....I think the trunk weather strip is installed upside down. Didn't think that was even possible.
Haha thanks for that. I have noticed that the rear left corner of the trunk doesn't seem to be 100% waterproof (even when I have to close the trunk pretty hard to get it to latch) which is the main reason I don't drive it in the rain and am super careful when washing it. That was on my list of things to investigate and fix next. But I bet you just saved me a good bit of time there. I love how you guys can look at a picture focused on something else and identify a little problem like that. Awesome!
 

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Discussion Starter #17
So now everything's looking good. But mechanical issues still remain. Lots of text, less pictures in this one.

1. It starts up super quick and easy, but is clearly not running on all cylinders based on the sound and how much the motor shakes around. It still smooths out as it warms up and I get on the throttle.
2. It's running rich.
3. There's still the off-idle stumble I mentioned earlier.
4. On one or two occasions, the car has stalled during hard braking or turning
5. There's some fairly loud rear end howl especially when coasting.
6. There's also the oil leak and a leak from the rear end housing.
7. The new transmission works fine but doesn't hold onto gears as long as I'd like it to.
8. I don't actually have the pedal travel to get to WOT.

Again, unfortunately not the maintenance free driver I was hoping for. Time to learn some more things and figure all this out.

Starting with #1, checked out the distributor, MSD box, plug wires, and spark plugs. Hooked up the wires and lines for the boost-retard system since it wasn't (although that was the least of my worries at this point). Cleaned up the disrtibutor a bit and reset timing, but everything seemed to be in working order. All of the spark plugs definitely did NOT look the same. Replaced them, no change to the issue. On the shelf for another day.

#2, 3, and 4 all must be related. Didn't have these issues, other than a bit of richness with the old carburetor. At this point I had been talking with an engine shop about some upgrades, so I figured I'd leave the jetting alone for now. All my research regarding the flat spot just off idle pointed to the accelerator pumps being the issue. I messed with different settings on them (mostly not realizing that looser on the nut is MORE preload on the pump arm, not less) with little success. Finally, in combination with researching for issue #4, I found the suggestion to lower the float levels. I did so, and bam, problems solved! Apparently under acceleration and hard braking, fuel was spilling over into the carb and causing all the issues I was having. The levels were set to the 'normal' level from the factory with fuel just dripping out of the sight plugs. But lowering each one by 3/4 turn of the nut completely eliminated both the off idle stumble and the stall on hard braking or turning. What a difference from such a simple adjustment!

Now that I had a transmission with overdrive, I could step up the gear ratio in the rear end while still being able to cruise comfortably on the highway. So in went a set of 3.55's to replace the howling 3.42's along with fixing the leak. There was something goofy with the dimensions so they basically had to custom make part of the seal to make it work. But at the end of the day, no more gear howl, and no more gear oil on the floor. While it was on the lift we determined the motor oil leak was coming from the rear main seal. So that sucks. And they explained there wasn't a whole lot of adjusting they could do to the transmission to smooth it out or hold onto gears longer if I wanted it to be durable. Oh well.

Lastly, I realized the gas pedal would hit the carpet before actually opening the carb all the way. It wasn't a huge difference, but still, needed to be fixed. Part of the problem was that the plastic bracket the pedal pivots in was cracked. So I replaced that with a metal one. That was a fun job with the motor in the car. I also removed the padding under the carpet below the pedal and used some heat to bend the pedal arm up a bit. Now I have full carb throttle travel from the pedal.

And that's it for the smaller updates. Another picture of the car because why not

 

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Lastly, I realized the gas pedal would hit the carpet before actually opening the carb all the way. It wasn't a huge difference, but still, needed to be fixed. Part of the problem was that the plastic bracket the pedal pivots in was cracked. So I replaced that with a metal one. That was a fun job with the motor in the car. I also removed the padding under the carpet below the pedal and used some heat to bend the pedal arm up a bit. Now I have full carb throttle travel from the pedal.
Mine is cracked and hitting the carpet also.. I'm going with the Billet Specialties pedal and Lokar cable.. Not looking forward to doing this with the engine in there.. Definitely looks like a biatch getting to the pedal mounting screws.. considering I can't even see them l:)
 

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Discussion Starter #19
It was very frustrating. Especially when I realized that after FINALLY getting the old one off and the new one on and tight, that you can't actually install the pedal arm with the bracket tightened down. It has to be loose enough to pivot toward the interior of the car so you can slide the pedal arm in.

I guess it'd be too easy if the mounting screws were on the interior side of the firewall instead...
 
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