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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hey guys, been awhile. Hope this place is still jammin. :mohawk: I was broswing around and saw some other sweet 2nd Gen project logs have sprung up so I figured I'd add mine to the mix. Should have done this way back when I started it, but never had the time to compile everything until recently. Anyway here goes probably the longest miniseries you'll see on these boards... from the top. (I'll be adding the pics in chronological order as I organize them)

FIREBIRD PROJECT LOG

1973 PONTIAC FIREBIRD ESPRIT
Paint color: Desert Sand (HH/56) Interior: Saddle (431)
Engine/Transmission: 400ci 2bbl V8 OHV with a 3-spd Turbo Hydra-Matic 400
53,647 original miles (at start of project)

Notable factory options:
RALLY II wheels, AM/FM radio with integrated windscreen antenna, Air Conditioning, Soft-Lite tinted windshield, RALLY dash gauges, power windows and door locks, power brakes, power steering, chrome trim everywhere, Deluxe bucket seats

Brief history:
Purchased new in October 1973 by father for $4300 from McDonagh Pontiac in Toms River, NJ (now defunct). Went to the dealer at night and put a deposit down of a few dollars. Got a call the next day from the dealer about putting down a more substantial sum and he returned for it. This was his first car. He did not realize the striping on the passenger door didn't match until after he drove it home. It was driven regularly and registered up until circa 1993. Minor modifications done were long tube headers and true dual exhaust, Holley 650 cfm 2bbl race carb with open air cleaner, Centennial Interceptor radial tires instead of the F17x40s. The car eventually refused to start and was left in the garage for 20 years since there were newer vehicles to use. I was tired of seeing it in this condition and knew my father would probably never get to work on it like he wanted to.





Oct 2021 Update: Finally switched image hosting from PB to another better service!
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Project begins June 2013

First things first, purchased a new battery on June 15 while at Kmart. Die Hard Type 75 side terminal, to replace the old bulging JCPenney battery from 1988 which was the second most expensive part of the rebuild. I told the guy at the counter to be careful with that one when turning it in.
Began disassembly of engine bay components on June 22nd-23rd… removed air cleaner and ducting, washer fluid reservoir, 20 lb A/C compressor, vacuum lines, upper rad hose, etc. I also removed the cracked lower front valence holding the turn signals, as it was in pretty bad shape and my father had ordered a new black ABS repro one years ago. I also needed this off to inspect the front end and rad support. I found 20 years of dust and dirt had actually protected a lot of things, but I absolutely hate working on dirty cars. My general rule: everything that comes off must go back on either new or cleaner than it was.




Continuing the disassembly, I inspect the original 3-row brass tank and copper fin radiator. It appears to have had a leak at some point with lots of outer corrosion. Internal inspection thru the filler hole shows a lot of plugged rows and fins, also due to corrosion. After rolling the car halfway out the door, I removed the radiator shroud and radiator, then drained the coolant. The antifreeze was unexpectedly bright and fresh for being inside iron castings for 20 yrs. Then disconnected the transmission cooler lines as well and drained them. They were rusted to the radiator and were later scrapped with it. Fortunately, the trans lines had been cut and spliced once in the past for a leak so I only had to replace the last foot of each line on the rad side instead of the whole line to the trans housing; more on that later.





I took this opportunity to engine-brite the crap out of all the oily gunk that coated the right side of the engine block and parts of the heads. It was until that point beginning to grow its own kinds of special mold.




This one netted me a nice sum at the scrap yard which I had put into the fund later for new parts

 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I begin to order some new parts, June 25th: Front brake hardlines (pre-bent from Right-Stuff), battery tray (Sherman repro), and new Accel 8 mm SuperStock plug wires from Jegs. The front brake lines were rusty and the longer one (RF) was pinched slightly when the headers were added, battery tray was little more than a rust nugget.



June 27th, ordered more parts from Rockauto including the new Spectra Cooling 4-row radiator, new radiator hoses (Goodyear) and Stant cap to go along with it as well as a Fel-Pro full engine gasket kit for the 400.





The new radiator was here by the 29th, very nice. It's an upgrade from the 3-row and its also OEM shape and materials, with brass tanks and copper fins, painted in gloss black. This, being the most expensive item of the rebuild, was actually cheaper than the cheapest replacement aluminum radiator I could find for the Firebird and also preserves the originality of the car a little. With the added row came some minor fitment issues, but we'll explore that later.





Disassembly in the engine bay continued the weekend of June 29th, waiting for the other parts to arrive. I removed the accessory V-belts and water pump pulley/rad fan for more space. Grabbed some new OEM style white-line vacuum hose off eBay for cheap from Inline Tube, which look identical and is the same size as the original black factory lines. Also picked up a Rochester 2GV rebuild kit from a small-time eBay supplier. My father had removed the big Holley race carb and returned to the stock Rochester before parking it.
 

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Nice Justin keep it coming
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
I got sidetracked and began rebuilding the original carb on July 14th. The Rochester 2GV was in great shape and had obviously been dry for a while. All the float settings and such were still in line and within the recommended specs for this particular engine. All I had to do was clean up the outer part and put the new gaskets and filter in. Probably didn't need the rebuild, but what the heck






I see some nice new green peeking out from between the halves. Sorry, no interior shots.

Skipped some time on the project here since I stole away to Maine for a week at the end of July…
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Next up, on the weekend of the August 11th, back at it I pulled the old plug wires and valve covers off for cleaning and re-gasketing. The factory had applied a white RTV-like sealant to every cork gasket on the engine which had to be removed. I was able to get a good look at the valve train as well. Not much oil left in there with the exception of the blackish tarnish on everything, but everything appeared to be in working order. No loose rockers or broken springs. There was some good original Pontiac Engine Blue paint left on the rocker covers, decided to keep what was left instead of cleaning down to bare metal. I removed some other A/C and engine brackets as well for cleaning and re-finishing.





 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Next stop: iron town. The weekend of August 23rd I finally removed the cast iron intake manifold after some cleaning, but not before taking off the alternator and bracket. The valley pan underneath was quite a mess from 50k miles of gunk and oil spray. Apparently the PCV valves on these engines work very well, so well in fact that they bypass the seal/ring and coat the top of the engine in fine oil after a few thousand miles. After the valley pan was clean enough to handle, I removed it as well to inspect the cam galley and pushrods. Same story as the heads, not much oil and a bit of tarnish as expected.





As you can see I began running out of space to work in in the single bay... between all the tools I required and new parts awaiting assembly. So most of the cleaning work was done by me sitting on the front rad support, feet on the sway bar, hunched over the engine. There was a surprising amount of space for me in there with the radiator and fan out lol.





Views sitting over the engine. The freshened valve covers were set back onto the heads in between work to keep crap from getting in the rocker trains.







New cork gaskets and sealant was in order for the pan and nitrile gaskets for the valve covers to replace the old deteriorated cork ones (all from the Fel-Pro kit). I scrubbed, degreased, and then sanded down the valley pan down to metal since it was extremely rusted... a fresh coat of black hi-temp paint followed in 2 weeks:





I think some of you may notice the picture quality and quantity increasing at this point. The reason for this is I got a new camera. I switched from an old crappy HP Mz60 8mp to an Olympus XZ-1 10mp and I was taking pictures of everything haha. The dark photo above was the first image of the Bird I took with it and I still think it's the best one from the whole project.

Skipped some time here after another one-week jaunt to Maine before it got cold up there again…
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
Thanks guys, glad you're enjoying it.

Back to it again on the weekend of September 14th: I got sidetracked and finally tackled the starter motor. This was likely half the reason the car didn't start along with the bad battery. I got the front of the car jacked up (as far as I could, which wasn't a whole lot) and removed the torque converter pan/cover and then the 20 lb original heat-soaked starter motor with such patience so as to not crush my skull. The torque pan had a lot of crap on it and I just engine-brited the hell out of it until it looked new again. The starter had seen some better days. I did test it with jumper leads from the new battery and it spun ok and the solenoid plunged in and out. I figured it might still be good, so I put it back. This proved to be a mistake later on since I didn't actually load test it. Took some more photos of the underbody and you can see the long tube headers have scraped the road a few times. Some expected weeping on the oil pan and transmission pan as well. I did notice the column shifter linkage was missing, probably due to the header installation, but the car is unaffected because the shifter is on the center console and appears original. I am still not sure if that was included on all cars for the option.









I decided the next day, Sept. 15th was a good time to change the oil as well since I had the car up and was able to (barely) reach the oil filter. Old oil was a bit dark, but not chunky or anything. Put on a new filter my dad still had laying around along with some fresh cheap SuperTech 10W-40 (Walmart Special). This oil only needs to run for a little while to clean the engine out a bit when I finally get it started and re-lubricate all the parts. No need to go all zinc-infused since the engine is long broken in. Filter was a bitch to reach behind the header pipe… good thing I have small girly hands.





Yeah about 10 inches was all I had. The jack stands were maxed out on each frame rail. I was using the floor jack to power-assist the starter back up and in. Lining up the starter shims to get the 2 bolts back thru versus gravity was the worst part. Not my finest few hours. Definitely not doing it again.



 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
The following weekend is when the project started to really ramp up into FINISH HERR! mode.
September 21st and 22nd I got around to finally painting the valley pan and prepping it for reassembly. New cork gasket and assembled with red RTV, same for the valve covers.







Also was able to remove the alternator and bracket which will make it easier to get the 50 lb intake manifold back on. All the brackets were de-rusted, sanded and painted hi-temp black for uniformity.



I cleaned all the loose rust and crap off the manifold and de-burred some of the intake passages I deemed low-quality due to the original casting. If my dremel-porting adds a whole 0.1 hp, it's worth it haha. All gasket mating surfaces are cleaned and ready to go! Can you tell where I ported?





[if you guessed cyl 5 intake, you are correct!]

Before covering the heads and cam valley, I coated the rockers, springs, cam, pushrods, and lifters all with the fresh oil to ensure minimal engine wear whenever I get around to starting it up, since 99% of the oil has drained and rested in the pan for 20 yrs leaving little lubrication on top.





First, I added RTV around the water jacket outlets like the factory had applied the white stuff. I did both sides of the gaskets because I didn't want any leaks. The new intake gaskets fit perfectly, alas it appears I bought the right one! So clean!





Then don't forget to RTV the little thru hole in the water pump/timing case! I specifically left myself a note to remember that because there is a small o-ring there that bumps up to the manifold. Silly design really, but I guess the designers thought they needed thermostat bypass of some sort.



After some heavy lifting the manifold returns to the iron playground, all the bolts torqued to spec. Remember to tighten the long clamp bolt on the water pump FIRST which will pull the manifold forward to seal up that bypass thru hole! I almost forgot and didn't want any leaks there either. Last thing the alternator and bracket go back on.







I think we'll call it a night after all this.

This was a long one, but I wanted to give you all something to chew on besides turkey this holiday weekend. Happy Thanksgiving!

I'll be adding to the continuing story throughout the next few days based on my relative proximity to the computer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
Continuing at breakneck pace, by the following weekend of Sept. 28th, I had reassembled the cleaned-up water pump and crank pulleys (less the 5 lbs of dirt in the crank pulley), installed the new OEM style striped vacuum lines, returned the fresh Rochester carb to the engine, re-loomed the engine wire harness, and began running the new cut-to-length Accel 8 mm SuperSport wires.





The old EGR valve gasket had pretty much eaten it when I removed it so I had ordered a new one from Rockauto. Putting that all back together allowed me to finish the carb. At this point, some other parts I had ordered back in the summer came in handy: The Moroso big-block wire loom spacers and the K&N push-in PCV valve cover breather I had from Jegs.


New rubber radiator mounts (L>R, Old thin side, old thick side, new thick side)

But alas, the day had come to finally install the new Spectra 4-row radiator. Now being wider on one side than the original warranted some warranty-voiding modifications: I ground down the original rubber rad mounts from the thin side to widen the gap with a dremel sanding wheel which worked very well. I carefully reshaped the rubber to a perfect fit. The brass side tanks on this new rad are both the same width now. So next, I cut the side off the plastic radiator shroud to clear the new larger side tank. Simple dremeling and light duty hacksawing made short work of the plastic.



Test fitting:





 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
The next day, Sept. 29th, I began re-forming the ends of the transmission cooler lines that were rusted to the old rad and were scrapped. I went to the local Advance Auto and grabbed two identical lengths of 5/16" diameter pre-flared and Poly-Armoured brake lines as well as two brass ferrule splices. This is how the original lines were re-connected so I had to reconstruct the lengths with a small hand-held pipe bender:




The cool thing about inline ferrule splices is you don't need to flare them. Just cut the end, clean and even, push the ferrule ring over the end of the pipe after the nut and tighten down into the joint. Downside is they don't always seal 100%, which I found out a bit later on. You have to make sure you get exactly the right length of pipe in after the ferrule. The lower connection still weeps a little.



Anyway, I was able to easily work with the re-purposed brake lines and managed to fit the new radiator in pretty well.



I then cut the new upper and lower Goodyear hoses to length and made sure the trans cooler lines cleared the lower one ok. I refilled the radiator with fresh 50/50 Prestone premix some time after this. I also cleaned up the brass coil that goes in the lower rad hose and reused it. I have read that it was put there to keep the suction of the water pump from collapsing the hose upon starting the engine. Not sure if that is actually true.

Also on the 29th I had time to replace the battery tray with the new Sherman reproduction one. Easy as cake with 4 bolts:




Then before finalizing the radiator I reassembled the accessory drive V-belts which were in good shape and I decided not to replace them for now. Some of the newly painted engine brackets were also returned to their original places. I think we'll call it a day again:

 

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Oh wow, you have made a lot of things in a short time, and a great work, keep on going and you will have a great Bird.

Congrats to you Bird before I forgot it.

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regards

Sascha
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Back on the warpath the weekend of October 4th, I continued finishing off the Accel plug wires, cutting to length and putting the contacts and boots on the ends. I was able to buy a cheap MSD crimper tool which REALLY helped trimming and forming the ends. But don't tell MSD I was using it on ACCEL plug wires, cause they'll have a shit fit, haha!
I was impressed with my own work actually, since this is the first time I had ever cut my own wires…






Once that was done, I could put the air cleaner back on.... until carb tune time, but we are still a ways from that.

Next post will be dedicated to the wire cutting and finishing process for anyone wondering.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
At the end of 10/4, everything had pretty much come together engine-wise, so I began draining some of the old gasoline from the tank. According to the gauge, there was probably still a few gallons left of 20 year old petrol. It was oddly a reddish Kool-Aid color like off-road gas (maybe from rust?) and smelled pretty nasty. I probably removed about 4 whole 1-gallon milk jugs worth before the siphon couldn't grab anymore, so I figured that was enough. Any new fuel would certainly mix and be fine, especially since I know this old stuff definitely DIDN'T have any ethanol content like modern gas. This old gas actually still burns, and my dad has used it successfully in his lawnmowers since…







On October 19th, I started cleaning some of the front trim components: I removed the grilles from the Endura-bumper and cleaned/polished the chrome up again. Also took that chance to get some crap out of the A/C condenser fins… like 20+ year old dead insects and small rocks… I also pulled out the chrome headlight trim-rings and when over them with some 3M polish as well. Nice and shiny again:




The polished one has the 400 lettering compared with the other hazy one.
 
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