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🔧 BUILD Quarter Life Crisis. It's a thing. v.GN

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Your highest dreams will not come true overnight, and even if they do your life will never be perfect. It took me way too long to realize that, but this car was the expensive lesson I needed to get me there. Let me explain.

I've been a Buick fanatic nearly my whole life. Being the owner of a show quality intercooled Grand National race car was a life goal of mine. After being fed up with an overly ambitious restoration project that wasn't even Buick bodied nor powered I dropped everything and gave up. The project got parted out, and I started shopping for something better. I couldn't afford a good Buick yet, so I looked for something I could fix up and flip. Meet Nacho!

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I had always had a little thing for El Caminos and I picked this beauty was only $3800. It ran like complete garbage, but it was completely rust-free! I thought that fixing the obvious vacuum leak would make this an easy $5000 car.

I brought it home and immediately removed the carb. Some goof put a spread-bore to square-bore adapter between the stock intake and quadra-jet.

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Score! I didn't want to fall in love with it, so I started taking it to cruise nights with a for sale sign in it. I even tried to road trip it home to Lisle, but I didn't make it far.

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I was about to stop for gas when I noticed white smoke rolling out behind me. I knew I was not going to make it, so I turned around. I knew it was officially game over when I heard a loud pop and saw a big splash hit the windshield. Only I would blow a head gasket and pop the radiator hose on a stock low output 305. :rolleyes: A tow truck got me the rest of the way home.

I wasn't taking a lot of pictures of my work back then, but here's a little taste of my first major start to finish engine repair!

Head swap.jpg


I had always wondered why the car ran so consistently rough and painfully slow, but I figured that was just the 305 life. As it turned out, this POS had terribly mismatched heads! One side was stock, and the other side had some kind of large chamber 350 head with a 305 gasket. The fact that it ran without blowing the head gasket for as long as it did was a miracle, but I was not happy about blowing the flip.

After scoring some very cheap ebay reman. heads, painting a few parts, and slamming it all together I got serious about selling. Within a couple days, I sold it to a very motivated buyer for $5100. After the purchase, tires, engine repairs, plates, and insurance, I made $200. Those were not the profits I wanted, but a profit nonetheless. Nothing ever goes exactly as planned.

Once again, I was without a project and still without a Buick. Depression resumed. I started my search for the "perfect" 30 year old car. Not wanting another basket case, but also not wanting to get hosed, I turned to the family friend who got me into Buicks in the first place. He helped me find "the one". Here I am in 2016 about to drive a Grand National and call it my own for the first time in my life.

Closed the deal 2016.jpg



...Now the real story begins.

sktchy

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Compressed air and some soapy water is one way to find an ac leak. The other is to use dye and a uv light. You can score a cheap light at a parts store and that stuffs generally pretty easy to find.

Bonus points if you peel the uv filter off an M12 Milwaukee single led light and use it for everyyyythinnggg like I do at work, makes coolant glow too ?
 

v6buicks

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Compressed air worked flawlessly. I was able to hear the air rushing from the compressor flange seals and watch oil spurt out. The new o-rings I put in there were too thin.
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so I sized up.
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Fixed! I boiled the moisture out for an hour, and the gauge has been holding steady right here ever since.
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I also repainted the coil bracket among other things. I'm so glad I did. It looks so much better in black. lol That coil is starting to look like shit though... literally. A mouse shit on it last winter and this is as good as I could get it cleaned off. Idk what kind of acid is in mouse shit, but I'm starting to hate those little fuckers. The Camaro blew flower pedals and leaves all over me when I turned the heat on too. :mad:
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It looks like I am going to play some more dress up. The coil is just going to have to hang out a little longer for weird reasons. Although it bothers me the most, it still works and I have no problem upgrading to a TR6 when it makes more sense to do so. When it comes to little bolts and stuff, I can almost guarantee that I won't go back to replace them later. See all those old brown fasteners at the bottom of the plenum? I can't find any good replacements for those bolt/studs but they can't really be seen once something is being held to the stud anyway.

I know I'm being anal, but as long as I'm occupied I won't lose my shit on Racetronix. Seems worth it! My alternator dress-up kit and another can of cast iron VHT should be here today, so I plan to get the alternator back in one piece and finish the exhaust painting. By the way.... I made a discovery last night that's baffling me a bit.
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Well yes.... my wire harness and AC switch ARE in fact dirty, and I need to do something about that, but it's not what I'm talking about. I couldn't get my phone to focus on the header. See how the little shield gets darker as it curves up? That's not a shadow. It's still bare assed metal on the bottom. :angrys00ls:

I don't know if I simply forgot to flip it or what, but the bottom flange is definitely bare as well because I can see rust poking up. I actually had a plan for spraying these parts on the car, masked it off. As I type this though, I think I need to just pull it back off and give the whole thing another couple coats. Hopefully the crushed gasket doesn't mind.

Don't worry. I'll disolve the grime on the harness with contact cleaner too.
 
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v6buicks

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What a fucking roller coaster of a night. I also need to buy some lottery tickets.

My chrome kit is here and looks great, so I wanted to get that all together and done with. No dice. I broke the brush while trying to stick a nail through the little assembly holes. It must have been cracked already because I didn't force it at all.
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Turns out I can buy just a brush assembly for $12, so I ordered that and desoldered the old one. It just sucks that I now need to wait at least another few days for that to show up.

I also got my exhaust paint so I finished up the elbow.
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I also jacked up the car to remove the crossover and driver side header.
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Looks like I'm not going to be reusing that gasket. I'll just listen to the old guys maybe they know what they're talking about afterall.
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We'll see!

Here's where shit goes very south. I was trying to get the elbow on the turbo. The bolts went on without issue except for the one I enlarged which got stuck with less than 1/4" to go. Like really stuck. It went that far with no issue at all and suddenly it wouldn't move either direction. Fuck. Removing a galled up stainless bolt that's already larger than stock seemed like a 100% chance of machine shop visit.

With a lot of patience and coming really close to snapping the fucker a few times it actually came out. Look how bent it is!
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It turned out that I was trying to use the longer bolt I brought home which was incorrect. This had to be why I ran into problems.

So that happened. I knew the threads had to be messed up after that. Let's just chase it with the tap really quick.
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FUCK! Again! I was putting any effort into it! I finished tapping with the remains of the tool, but I knew I was going to have to get that piece out. It wasn't in the external wastegate passage. ?

Due to the thousand things that need to come off with the turbo and the PITA of installing the drain, I really didn't want to have to do all that. I stuck and magnet into the rear of the header and fished around. After a few minutes I got it.
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That was some great luck for one night! I almost called it quits because I didn't want to push it. I need to take advantage of my time and motivation though.
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All painted!
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Return hose is ran from the regulator to the frame. That was nice on the hands. Lots of cuts.
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Doing this job helped me realize that my cruise control was not hooked up. I never would have noticed because the hose and check valve were just hanging out behind the wire harness on the firewall. It looks like it was originally teed in with the EGR. After some rearranging of the vacuum hoses, I have everything hooked up, and no need for vacuum caps. ?

The same job also helped me notice that my body bushings are FUBAR. I'm not doing anything about that now, but it's something to remember. Yuck.

Maybe I'll get the downpipe looking the way I want it and installed tomorrow. I have a trans mount and crossmember bushings I can install too.
 
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v6buicks

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Thanks!

This weekend has been a little bland and boring in terms of updates, but it's progress nonetheless. I have to keep moving. The broken alternator brush has been a real drag because the intercooler bracket doesn't go on without the alternator. Having the alternator in one piece means the whole front of the car gets to go together! Out of excitement and anticipation I just had to see what the alternator would look like when finished. I think I'm going to like it.
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So there's that. Time to move on. The super nice MSD plug wires I bought at the Nats for $90 in 2017 are all gross from oil leaks and mouse piss. The boots are chewed up too. :cry: I was hoping to stick new boots on them but they seem to have been glued or something because they tore the connector right off. They're garbage. I whipped out the old Taylor wire building kit I made started sizing things up.
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You know how the cookie crumbles. I made the fifth wire and only had about 6 inches left. I'll have to wait for my new 50ft roll to arrive. So far, I'm happy with the look. These shitty bulk boots I have in my kit make installing the wires a huuuuuge PITA if you cant reach really well though. I'm not gonna worry about that right now. These are new, and look nice.
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I actually had to get under the car to install #6 which is not normal. It was just being too much of a pain. While I was down there I noticed another action item. I wouldn't have if I wasn't just talking to a buddy who did the same job last week.
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These body bushings are shot and not helping the #6 plug wire situation. I ordered a poly set on Summit which include the extra GNX bushings. This will be something I do AFTER the car is back on the road or if I'm literally just twiddling thumbs waiting for Racetronix to ship fuel pumps. This car is not rusty, but I don't want to accidentally open a can of worms.

Moving on. This downpipe has been the biggest pain to paint ever. It scratches if you look at it with sharp eyes, and it runs really easy.
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Sanded smooth and started over.
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It still got all messed up so I took it to the bench where it's warmer. That helped a lot.
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I was just trying to cross all the little piddly stuff off my list. So here's the old tensioner bearing! TA DA!!! MY BELT SQUEAK! I think I finally found it! I don't know why the bearing failed, but it shouldn't be greasy. I remember that I was in a rush to get to the Nats a few years back mangled a plastic pulley to extract this bearing and pressed it into the GN pulley. This time I have a new bearing that is actually meant for this pulley. I'm not sure what the difference is, but hopefully it lasts a lot longer.
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I wanted to keep prettying things up but maybe try something that would give me some more satisfaction.
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Scotch Brite pads got this heat shield looking really nice. It's not perfect, but a lot better than I expected to get it to be honest.
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This morning I decided I was satisfied with the downpipe paint and threw it in the car. As I expected, this was not a smooth process, and I ended up scratching the shot out of the paint. Oh well. To be honest, Id rather see scratches than some paint newbie's runs.
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I almost had a panic attack over the connection to the elbow. I forgot there was a donut gasket and I had no idea where TF I put it. I started googling it and it's been an issue to source for many years. I'm pretty sure Bowling Green Customs has been out of business for 20 years. Some people have provided a Sterling truck PN, but that's no longer made either. Then somebody else found out that it might be shared with a Ford F700 of some sort. I better figure it out because although I did eventually find my old one, it's seen much better days.
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This last bit of assembly is going way slower than I anticipated, but I'm happy with the results.

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I pulled the intercooler out of the basement. As per usual it's condition is no longer acceptable. I first dumped a big jug of denatured alcohol into it, hoping it would break up the oil in there. It came out looking a lot yellower than it went it so I guess that's progress! It will also need some paint touch ups and screws for the shroud though. It's been missing four of them since I bought the car. I bought a new set on ebay.
 

v6buicks

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I'm kinda running out of shit to do, so last night was spent mostly just picking things up, reorganizing, and burning boxes. I did touch up the top of the intercooler core though. It turned out really good!
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I forgot to take a before picture of the paint flaking off of this thing, but it was pretty bad. I had to tape off the little sticker plaque because there's no replacing those. They actually have serial numbers laser etched into them. Instead of trying to peel it off and stick it back on without ruining it, I used a razor blade to cut the tape around it. I put some razor marks into the aluminum, but its better than chipped paint. Nobody will notice.

UPS is dropping off body bushings and 50' of plug wire today. I'll probably just do the one plug wire and call it a night. The body bushings are going to wait until after the car is back on the road. Not only should this give me a better taste of success, but it will put me in better graces with the wife too. That seems like a better job for after the garage is cleaned up anyway.
 
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v6buicks

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Plug wires are done. Finding basic plastic wire holders for 8mm is really tough for some reason. Then I have to find ones that only hold three. I hope I still have the plug wires that came with the car so I can rob the clips, but I'm not betting on it. The MSD wires I was running before were 8.5mm so theses clips are very loose.
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v6buicks

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My buddy who's also waiting for a Racetronix pump assembly got word that his is on the way! Now I'm REALLY excited.

In the mean time, instead of dropping my tank I decided to do something about my A-pillar trim. I'm not expecting the results to be great, but I can certainly do better than the last guy... I hope. I don't like the added screws, but the blank hole where the alky light used to be is just terrible.
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I noticed that the new pod is designed to sit lower on the A-pillar which mega sucks. Now I have a hole in the A-pillar trim that's going to be uncovered. This isn't going as planned.
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Damn. Well I hate pillar pods anyway. The original trim is too fucked up to get rid of it, and finding an uncut A-pillar trim is like a needle in the hay stack. I'm just going to shoot for better than before, and call this a temporary fix until I figure out something better. I have three options for that. One is getting a 2 gauge pod which would cover the hole and allow me to install an oil pressure gauge, but at the expense of looking more ricey and probably fitting just as terribly. Option two is getting a three gauge pod which will look full Need4Speed Underground but replaces the entire stock a-pillar trim. There's no cutting or seams, but again I can't guarantee that it fits worth a shit. I have no idea what my third gauge would be either and that's a lot of wires in a small space. I'm pretty sure the 1, 2, and 3 gauge pods are all molded in the same shitty Chinese factory. Option three is finding an stock A-pillar trim and getting rid of the boost gauge. The car has an LED gauge on the dash which is not one I would trust for any sort of diagnosis. Completely stock interior is the look I want, but I'm not sure if going blind is a great approach. I could try using one of the pods that sits in the lower cubby, but a boost gauge that's out of my line of sight is kinda dangerous/useless.

We'll cross that bridge when it comes. Maybe if the car is reliable and consistent enough to not need the gauge I'll just dump it. For now, I'm going to try filling a hole.
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With the gauge sitting lower, I had to make the passthrough bigger. This means I have the perfect filler material!
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Not great, but if I'm happy enough with this when it's done, I might buy a can of the matching interior paint from G-body or Kirban. That should help a lot.
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The pod is supposed to attach with double stick tape which is believable on the top. On the bottom, it's not even close to molded right. I see why the old one was held in with screws now. What garbage! I can already tell that I'm not gonna be happy with this.
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I considered heating it up and trying to remold it a bit, but that probably won't turn out very good. If I get it soft enough to remold it'll be soft enough to put fingerprints in it. This area would be hard to see when it's all put together though so it's probably not worth the effort. I just need to figure out how I'll attach it.
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Passthrough is fully enlarged. This smoother transition should help keep the new boost gauge line from kinking. By the way, it finally broke, so I have to replace that. :(
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Unacceptable! The bottom needs to sit flatter. I just thought of another idea though. Since the existing edge of the pod doesn't line up with anything and looks stupid through the windshield, Why not just cut off the offending edge? That should at least make it sit about perfect.
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v6buicks

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The slice helped immensely.
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Loaded up and ready to stick?
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I took the clamps off and watched the pod pop off in a couple spots. I dropped some glue in there and tried again. It seemed to help. I'll take a look at it again when I get home. I'm not convinced that the the tape won't decide to give up in the hot sun, but I don't have any better ideas yet.
 
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v6buicks

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New brush assembly showed up on Friday.
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and I quickly decided that the chrome kit was a waste of money. I think a black fan will look better. :(
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When I dropped the intercooler in I was a very odd mix of dissatisfied and really excited. The up pipe looks pretty shitty, the chrome alternator fan looks very Autozone, and the intercooler is sitting crooked as hell. I'm not sure how to fix the intercooler, but It might have always been like that. It feels great to be worrying about stupid finishing shit like this though.
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v6buicks

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I am pretty happy today considering the amount of time I spent last night installing the intercooler shroud.

That's it. That's all I did. :ROFLMAO:

I think I mentioned that the stock intercooler was missing screws for mounting the shroud, so I bought more. What I didn't realize until last night was that it was missing half. I had always installed just the six closest to the top so that it didn't look like I was obviously missing hardware, but this meant that I would never discover the fact that the bottom wasn't lining up at all. Look at how crooked the intercooler is in relation to the sway bar.
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Shroud resting on the sway bar.
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The only explanation I could think of here is that the racoon did more damage than I thought. It would also explain why the Precision SLIC never fit right. It uses the same super strong stock support on the driver side. I never imagined that an racoon could bend that thing, but I was doing 55mph and it was a fat mofo! This was going to require some real muscle.

This was scary. I thought I was playing with a bomb. I needed a long screwdriver to release it.
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I would have loved to pulled it just one more click because I knew I would have some spring back. This looked perfect, but the strap (and end link) was giving everything it had.
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The shroud is just barely off the sway bar. It will touch at high speeds, but I'm not worried about it. I'm just glad it fits again.
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I guess I lied a little. I also installed bent and installed plug wire separators. I bought a set from Moroso, but they are way too big and pro-street for me. lol
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This picture helped me notice that the old ones are banana shaped though. I gently squeezed them in the vice, put some light heat into them and suddenly they clipped my 8mm wires just fine. (y)
 
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v6buicks

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I'm very disappointed in the fact that I had to do this, but the damn pod kept popping off.
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I ended up chopping this corner even further and giving it the same JB treatment.
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My can of interior paint from G-body parts came in the mail yesterday. Hopefully I can just spray this hack job and be done with it. I think it'll still look okayish from every visible angle.

I decided to try installing the poly trans mount and and crossmember bushings. I wish I read the directions before installing my exhaust because the crossmember has to be completely removed and modified for this job. Yuck.
 

v6buicks

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I didn't take any pictures, but I finished the A-pillar trim modifications once and for all yesterday. I can say that because if this doesn't work or look good, it's trash. The pod popped up in another spot so I decided to clamp it back down and skim JB Weld like calk around the entire gauge pod. It actually seems to have worked really well so far. It looks great, and I wish I did it like that all the way around. If it doesn't pop again, I'll take pictures and paint it next.

Then I moved on to something else. I really wanted to paint some stuff in the yard while the weather was nice. My pregnant wife is tired of the fumes, so my mini paint booth was banished. Luckily there isn't much left to paint. I debated doing the air box because it really didn't look that bad. Little parts had surface rust, and the paint on top was pretty chipped up and fading. I just haven't had great luck getting paint to sit nice and flat.
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I tried to just clean it up first which kind of sealed the fate.
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Wow. I guess it didn't like brake cleaner! Blast time.

This is when I got out of control. Most people are going to find this dumb, but screw em! Anybody who knows anything about these cars knows that the stock air box is by far the most restrictive piece on the car. It's a disaster from start to finish. The cold air duct is tiny, the box itself is less than an inch wider than the cylindrical filter itself, and there's a massive bar right in the flow path of the outlet. After that, it goes through a tight elbow and the MAF. Ditching the stock airbox for a cone filter on an otherwise bone stock GN will yield .8 in the 1/4! Putting a stock air box back on a 10 second car will make it a 12 second car. It's terrible.

Earlier in the thread I mentioned how I ditched the lower half of the airbox entirely and replaced it with a thunderbird aluminum wheel center cap. It no longer has to breathe through the straw-like cold air duct nor is the box really doing anything except looking stock and holding the filter element in place. This made a very noticeable difference in sound and power while still retaining a decent factory appearance. There were other nit picky tricks I could do to improve flow, but I wasn't wanting to get that carried away back then. Yesterday was different though.
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It's already blasted bare and needs a paint job. I can't drive the car until my fuel pump arrives anyway. These hold-downs are known to create a lot of turbulence. It's a terrible design, but we can make it a little better with a welder and some grinding.
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I forgot to take a picture of the welds, but here's after I knife edged them.
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I even ditched the flange nut for a flangeless which is very much against my religion. The flow gods are happy though.
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I did a little more blasting so that the welds for the other side would turn out better.
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OMG it's like cleaning your metal is necessary or something. :love:
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Worth it? I don't know. It will never be quantified, but it was kind of fun and only took me 20 minutes or so. Maybe I'll pick up a few ponies and tolerate the old air box a while longer. If anything the welds should have made the hold down bar strong enough to compress the filter instead of bending and spreading itself apart like before.

I wish I could see the old lost pictures on turbobuick that showed the old stock appearing class tricks. I was reading something about a guy who gutted the original MAF and somehow grafted LT1 MAF guts into the air box. I would never go through that much trouble for my car, but I love the ingenuity.
 

v6buicks

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I was already pretty happy with the JB Weld, but the dye made a huge difference!
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I didn't try to install it though. I noticed that my fingernail scratches the dye right off. While I don't intend to touch the A-pillar a lot, I need to figure out how to make this stick a little better. There are lots of words on the can. I must have missed a couple directions.
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v6buicks

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Thanks Five-0 Five-0 for the SEM vinyl prep suggestion! That made a big difference.
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I'm now trying to get a new boost reference line installed while that dries, but it's was coiled up super tight. Does anyone have any suggestions for getting it straight? I'm kind of scared to put much heat into it. I'm thinking pot of hot hot water.
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Last night I crossed a big milestone. The air box is back in, the alternator fan was swapped, and the engine bay now appears to be in its final form. ? I love it. It's pretty much the same except everything is nicer. Lol
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I do need to do something about the radiator support because the orange peel looks like shit. I might have to try a different paint. Otherwise, I don't have anything worth complaining about.
 
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v6buicks

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This ended up being a waste of time. It looks okay here I guess.
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But not so much anywhere else.
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I don't remember this gap being here before.
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You can't tell, but the JB Weld cracked.
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I can only imagine that this is going to get worse. The pod is tugging on that JB weld which obviously wasn't enough to force the pod into shape. What garbage! I also kinked the new line so that's great. This whole thing just needs to go in the trash, but for now it'll work.
 

v6buicks

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Oct 22, 2018
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Franklin, IN
Real Name
Jon
I got a long awaited box today.

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And got right back to work.
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Not a lot different with the sender itself.
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But the wiring is a lot beefier which requires a different connection.
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No more stock weatherpack.
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I will only need the feed and EVAP line now so I'll remove the return hardline between the body mount and the tank. The rest is going to stay because it's impossible to remove without cutting or removing the body from the frame.
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Did a little preventative maintenance before throwing the tank back in.
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I didn't take any pictures of what followed but it was kind of a fun puzzle despite dropping tar and dirt all over my face. Routing the return hose away from hot or moving parts and crunch points takes come creativity and the hose is not very flexible either. I almost guarantee that mine isn't routed as Racetronix intended but I found a couple nice short cuts inside the frame and between the body and frame.

Of course one of the tank strap bolts and nuts didn't want to play nicely. I spent about 15 minutes screwing with them and eventually just ramming it home with the impact. Fuckem!

I wanted to end the night on a high note and I didn't have E85 to throw in the tank anyway. IT'S READY! I'll start it tomorrow.
 

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