CLICK HERE----> TO THE RESTORATION PICTURES!:
The last Months I've been busy with my 1955 Ford F100 pickup, it's something else than a Pontiac Firebird but it still is a lot of fun. It has an 351 Cleveland with C4 Automatic transmission and 9" rear. I've put a link on this page to another homepage of mine(which is in dutch....) but has some nice pictures of the pickup.
Ok, back to the Firebird RAIII When I began with the restoration I didn't had the original engine with it, after 9 years I contacted the previous owner (this September) and he remembered selling me the car. He almost inmidiatly told me that he still had the original engine somewhere around..... I didn't dare to hope (still I did..) that it was really the original RAIII engine. We agreed to meet that coming weekend, we first spoke about the firebird and he jumped around the car telling me that it looked great. I couldn't wait any longer so I asked him about the engine, we walked to a little shed and there I saw what once had been a complete engine.... It was completely dismanteled and very rusty. I looked at the engine code .....YW so far so good...Now I search for the vin number to get the perfect match......NO VIN NUMBER ON THE ENGINE!!....... But...My Firebird was originally shipped from the assembly plant to Germany where the German 'TUF' (some department that checks all German motorvehicles) added a plate in the Engine compartment where the number of the engine was stated on. I still had the plate and so I checked this number...IT WAS THE ONE!!!! I got more excited and checked the casting number on the heads...62....BINGO!!! the oringinal RAIII heads! I asked him what he wanted for the engine...he looked at me..looked at the Firebird... and said: It is the original engine of your Firebird..so it belongs to the car..so you just take it with you and make that car complete! I thanked him and took all the parts of the engine back home..
Now the engine is bored to .030 oversize and I ordered Keith Black hyperutetic pistons for it. Next things on the list are: a high pressure oil pump, new camshaft, lifters, rocker arm etc.....
I have been busy with work, home, wife and Neighbours car (don't ask), so I didn't had much time to work on the engine. I did however ordered the stuff I needed except for the camshaft and lifters. The engine block is stored in my garage for about 2 months now and hopefully it's not started to rust. I also ordered reconditioned connecting rods which have to be assembled with the pistons (this is gonne be fun....or not?) Still thinking of what to use for camshaft, if somebody has any suggestions? The weather here is going to be a little better and soon the first meeting of the "stingray '82 " club is planned for April 22, 2000. I will get the bird out soon, its now under 3 car covers to be protected against my wife and kid. (they have their bicycle parked very close to the bird) I had hoped to get the engine in before the meeting, but I'm sure I won't make that.
I was really looking forward in starting with the assembly of my engine, when I noticed a difference in the connecting rods.... 3 of the reconditioned connecting rods had an 'oil spurt hole', the other 5 didn't.... Just for you guy's who don't know where I'm talking about (as I did before I read the manual) the Oil spurt hole is a little hole between the bearing cap and the connecting rod, its purpose is to provide extra oil to the camshaft (oil spurt holes should face the camshaft on assembly) and also the cylinder wall. I've contacted 'greenbayspartworld' where I ordered the rods, they are getting into this but they said that for the BB chevy engines also the oil spurt holes of the connecting rods were discontinued because of the reason that there was enough oil 'splashing' around in that area to provide the camshaft and engine wall of enough oil. If any of you guy's know the answer,don't hessitate to tell me...thanks! Anyway I'll await the answer of 'greenbaypartsworld' before I go on with further assemble.
There was a lot of discussion about the 'correctness' of the rods, I decided that I wanted the rods WITH the oil spurt holes and therefor returned the 5 rods to 'greenbayspartsworld' and they send me 5 with the correct holes. So here�s where the next problem occured...I had the impression that assembling the rods,pistons and rings were an easy job.... WRONG!!!! the pins(that connects the piston to the rod) had to be pressed in, a guy told me to heat the rod up and than simply press the pin in....SIMPLY HE SAID!!!! ` ` <------ I myself filled this space with nummerous unkind words... 1 piston (only installing the pin) took me 5 Hours! next day I brought the whole stuff to the engine shop which did this job a lot faster and it only cost me $25.00...men..... if I only known before. Ok next week I�ll install the complete setup in the engine.
Very sunny day today, so my wife decided that we go out with my doughter(19 months) to some animal farm... so NO garage time today (well...maybe when its her bedtime..) I started 8PM that day on installing the piston assembly in the engine, luckely my neightbour was there to help, he had an clamp that had to go over the psiton to hold the rings in place. This was an rather easy job by 11PM they were all in including the rod bearings and bearing caps.. I even took the time to set everything at his wright torq. Next week more.
When I got the engine almost everything was missing, no fuel pump, camshaft, distributor house, waterpump and so on. But luckely I have an �68 350 engine laying around which was a perfect donor for the windage tray and distributor housing. Installed the windage tray and High pressure Oil pump. I cleaned and installed the oil pan with new gaskets, boy Am I glad that I bought that engine stand! Next week its our Queens birthday and free markets are allowed, so the whole country will join this feest..! (No working on the engine allowed..)anyway in about 3 weeks I�ll have my paycheck coming in and than I will drop the heads off at the machine shop for reconditioning.
Did a lot of things the last 2 months..,painted the house, went on holiday for 4 weeks..did a lot of work in the garden...helped my neightbour with his Triumph TR3 and TR4 and TR250 (he has several..) Worked on the sheetmetal of the firebird convertible...welded new sections in doors and fenders as well as the trunk lid. BUT.....DIDN�t almost do nothing on the RAIII engine.. I waited for almost 3 months on the camshaft...idiots!! they forgot to order it and found that out 3 WEEKS AGO!.. well last time I�ve ordered parts there.. Anyway I�ve got it now ready to put in.. I did however managed to get all the parts together to complet the RAIII induction system.. YearOne had a lot of parts still available and although the reproduction lower pan is made of polyester instead of the steel as was the original, I�m very pleased. This weekend I�m going to have a look at an 1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster 4 door (I know..I know..its not a pontiac...), He has got it for sale, started a frame-off restoration, but now his dream of ever finishing the car has disappeared due money shortage. The car has just been repainted, has an rebuilt driveline, needs interior to be redone, and some other minor parts to complete. He�s only asking $3500.00 which doesn�t sound to much...wel we�ll have to see first.
Well it's been a while since I've put some updates here, mostly due to work. Anyway the 1948 Chrevolet Fleetmaster turned out to be a real wreck.. so dissapointed I went back home. To fill in the "loss" of not owning another nice classic I decided I needed to buy a motorbike... Anyway a email-friend of mine came by from Phoenix AZ, his wife is dutch and he visited Amsterdam due to the big "SAIL" event here (big old sailboots from all around the world) He is better known under the name DOCpontiac and is specialiced in rebuilding pontiac High performance engines. With big pride I presented him my RAIII engine (in an enginestand without the heads) after a short inspection he turned to me and said GREAT! except for the fact that 4 of the pistons are in the wrong place... "WHAT do you mean? I'm very very secure in this rebuilding job(that's why its taking me so long..) and know you tell me I did something wrong??" Yep, he said Look at the pistons top you see where the valve should be, you installed every piston the same way, look at the cylinder bank from left to right you see:
Intake valve/outlet valve.....Intake valve/outlet valve.....Intake valve/outlet valve.....Intake valve/outlet valve
Intake valve/outlet valve.....outlet valve/intake valve.....Intake valve/outlet valve.....outlet valve/intake valve
I still wasn't convinced...Hey, I was still trying to cover my big blunder, has to do with the midlife crises (according a hilaries wife...) So he went on: Ok, than look at the heads what do you see...? I looked and there was the proof..:
Intake valve/outlet valve.....outlet valve/intake valve.....Intake valve/outlet valve.....outlet valve/intake valve I let my head (the one on my shoulders) hang down and walked out of the garage, sat down on a chair in the garden and thought: Am I getting that old...It took me about almost half a day to put these pistons in with my neightbour.......HEY! Wait a minute I know a way out of this...Its my neightbour fault!!....she looked at me...turned around and walked away...
Hmmmmmmmm, probably not convinced..BUT I feel a little better. Anyway DOCpontiac (actually Mike) gave me a lot of usefull tips for the rebuilt. Thanks Mike!, I really appreciated your help (and Corrections!) DOCpontiac's email is on the top of my links list, so If you need help, contact him! I've also put a lot of work in the convertible, the fenders and doors are also ready. All the little parts are blasted and powder coated. The RAIII coupe is now placed on blocks and the engine and transmission will be going out this winter.
My planning is to put the engine in this winter and rebuild the transmission also.(its getting a little tired) I will keep you posted on the progress!
I finally have time to do a little more work on the engine. I pulled the piston (with my neighbours help) and placed them in the correct cylinders. Placed again new gasket for the oil pan. Also worked on the convertible, it is now being put together. I've blasted the subframe, control arms zink primered and painted them black.
I ordered a set of stainless steel valves, hardened push rods and a new waterpump divider plate. Worked mostly on the Convertible, put the subframe on with all new body mounts and put the doors in with all new hinge's (very pricy!).
Still haven't received the valves and the other stuff yet. So, put a little more work into the Convertible, Placed new front springs, all new control arm bushings and upper and lower ball joints. finally put the complete control arms back on the subframe.Also all the other small stuff like brackets, spindles etc. were sandblasted and powdercoated.
Received all the ordered parts, so I put the waterpump together. Now I started on the preparation for the engine to go back in to the Coupe, remember there's still a 400 in there so I have to get this one out, I'm planning to do this in one action. First get the engine out and put in the rebuild original numbers matching RAIII engine, , but before all that I have to bring the heads to the machine shop which I will do the end of this month (when my paycheck comes in)
Finally I brought the heads to the machine shop..bad news...they are very busy and it could last up to 6 weeks before there finished..O well back to work on the convertible. The heads by the way will get new valve guides and hardened valve seats to be able to run on regular fuel.
RAIII engine is waiting for his new heads, so I have a little time left to work on the convertible. I've put the front end together with inner fenders, fenders, radiator support and hood. Now here I've spend hours on placing shims in the wright places..(what a job!) But...the end result is 100% better than they came of the factory assembly line. I bought an new deck lid via ebay for only $60.00 (I was very lucky!) so that has been put on. I only have to clean the rear axle, put a new cover gasket on and replace the axle bearings, after that paint it and put it back on the convertible.
The heads wil be at least another 3 weeks at the shop since their very busy this time of year (their excuse...) Cleaned the rear axle, painted it and replaced the axle bearings together with new brake shoes, wheel cylinders and new hardware. Put the rear axle back on the convertible, with the new leaf springs and installed new heavy duty air adjustable shocks (Gabriel) Anyway I will be on holiday the next 2 weeks starting tomorrow.
Finally the heads are ready! they did a great job, new valve guides, installed stainless steel valves (which I provided) with teflon seals, grinded the seats and valves, straigthened and cleaned the heads. There ready for installation!..that is after I prepared our Porsche 944 for national cup racing.....(I can hear you guys think..) Wel let me explane....I just reached the age of 40 (thanks..) and decided that instead of looking (actually stair and drewl..) at nice young woman I would start racing at our national racetrack.(AND still stair and drewl..) My neightbour (much older than me..) wanted to do this also so we decided to buy one car and split the cost. We are now preparing it for racing, but first I have to get that race licence, which I hope to get at the next exame somewhere in September.
It has been a while since I updated this part, but I actually did a lot of work on the RAIII. I've put the engine together and also the TH400 (M40) transmission was rebuilt with a new shiftkit. I've put the engine and transmission back in the car (finally..), and now I'm busy figuring out how that RAIII system should be put together so it works as it should. The racing exame for my race license is March 9, 2002 a little later than I hoped, but it gives me some extra time to finish the Firebird.
Got the RAIII system parts figured out and I'm busy putting it together, which isn't an easy job especially the upper foam seal is getting difficult to install together with the upper pan, the foam seal seams to thick which makes it difficult if not imposssible to get that upper pan bolted to the hood.
This has been a dissapointing week for me...crashed our porsche on the local circuit just before the exame.... I was over confident...had to borrow a porsche to get to the exame...this was a totally different car with a totally different setup and I didn't want to crash a porsche that I borrowed.. (excuses build-up..) Well...I didn't make the exame..but will stil race this year on open circuit days to get more experience and try it again next year.
Ended up in cutting something of the upper foam seal to allow to get that upper pan perfectly fitting. Everything works now even the cable operated flappers! Time to start her up..
The engine runs fine, however there is a low vacuum which isn't enough to pull the vacuum operated valves completely open.. and also it isn't enough to let that cruise control work proparly.. Hmmm at idle the engine isn't running completely as I would like it to run, people here say that's normal for that kind of engine with that kind of camshaft. When it is warm it runs much much better. O well, first get some miles on it and after that run through the tune up procedure again.
Well I have been busy the last few months with racing our porsche 944 over the Zandvoort circuit, set great times (at least I think so..) and been also busy working on the convertible (as the newly added convertible pictures will proof..) De coupe was (and still is) not running as it should be, I eventually dismantled the "professionally" (by recarbco) rebuilt quadrayet carb and found out that the power piston was held completely down by the gasket, there should be a little opening in the gasket, but it wasn't cut out completely and therefor the power piston could not rise again and was stuck in completely down possition which explaned the high fuel comsumption. So I did the job wright again and was pretty confident that all the troubles would dissapear and the coupe would drive great...well...to I had too high expectations there.. It does run better at idle and when it's cold the choke works great now, but there's still that problem when the engine's warm and I'm going for full throttle (and the TH400 shifts down) the engine just roffles and doesn't want to ref that fast at all.When I just lift the gas padle a little it runs great, but than the cars shift up again therefor missing that great accelaration. Any suggestions anyone? Anyway I will be looking at this somewhere in february when the weather gets better.Now I will be going forward with the convertible project, planning is to get it painted somewhere in April next year.