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Project Trans Am – 22 Months Later

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Project Trans Am Transportation

Project Trans Am – 18 Months Later

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Home Tools Transportation

Pegboard in the Garage and Snags Tearing Down the Pontiac 301 Turbo

PegboardThis Memorial Day weekend I got to do some work around the house. My initial plan was to start building the Pontiac 400, but I recently discovered I needed one more part (Cam thrust plate) and it did not arrive yet, so I decided to work on the firewall and other various little parts on the Trans Am. After spending about an hour in the garage moving stuff around, I decided to switch my car project to a Garage improvement weekend. By Monday I installed 64 square feet of pegboard and enough hangers/hooks to get just about everything shy of 15 pounds off the garage floor.

On Monday I started work on tearing down the Pontiac 301 Turbo. If you’re not familiar with the Pontiac 301 Turbo, it was made in 1980 and 1981 for the Pontiac Trans Am and Formula making it a rather rare engine. Some say it was ahead of it’s time, others say it was plagued by it’s oil cooled turbo charger. It was the last true Pontiac designed V8. What ever your thoughts on this short lived engine are, once I confirmed that my Trans Am was not a special edition, I decided to swap it out with a Pontiac 400. Since last fall this V8 has been sitting in the garage just taking space. This weekend I decided it was time to take it apart to see what was wrong with it and recycle what ever parts that can be reused. Believe it or not, this engine shares a lot with it’s larger cousins (350, 400 and 455) such as engine mounts, fuel pumps and the bell housing.

During the initial tear down I ran into a couple snags. First was the flywheel bolts having 12 point heads. My plan was to use my compressor with the impact wrench attached. My plan went foul once I discovered that the impact sockets I got with my compressor are all 6 point. A run to the neighborhood home improvement stores showed me how rare 12 point impact sockets are. I do understand that a 6 point socket is better for 6 point bolt heads and that’s most likely why the 12 point impact sockets are hard to find, but come on, someone has to sell 12 point impact sockets! When you’re dealing with a 12 point bolt head, you can’t use a 6 point socket.

So after doing some online shopping, I found that only a handful of tool companies make such sockets. Sadly most all of these sockets are through brands like Snap-On, which make the tools too expensive for a weekend mechanic like myself. I did find a set of 12 point SAE impact sockets on that meets my price range. (see picture). They also have 12 point metric impact sockets.

The second snag working on the 301 Turbo came when I made a rookie mechanic mistake! I am using an engine leveler for lifting the motor, that way I can easily level the engine with the engine hoist/cherry picker. I recall today reading somewhere “Always connect engine levelers and engine hoist chains using grade 8 bolts to engine heads. Avoid connecting to bell housing or aluminum intake manifolds when possible“. Well I learned yesterday the hard way why you don’t connect your engine hoist to the bell housing! When I got ready to bolt the engine to the engine stand, you can guess the colorful language that came out of my mouth! Lesson learned the hard way, never never NEVER ever use the bell housing when lifting an engine!


Technology Tools Transportation

Torque Wrenches Reviewed

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News Podcasting Transportation

My Enthusiasm for Pontiac Continues

Trans AmIf you’ve talked about cars with me in recent months, you know I’m in the process of restoring a 1981 Trans Am. I bought the car knowing the motor needed rebuilt or replaced. Last fall I picked up a Pontiac 400 V8 (more specifically, a W72 from a 77 Trans Am with the transmission and carburetor, the W72 is arguably the last great V8 designed by Pontiac engineers).

Since about October, I’ve been doing a lot of research on Pontiac V8’s built from 1955-1982, as well as other research specific to the mid to late 1970’s Firebirds. I quickly found that I have about 30 significant web sites I now visit to read about Pontiac engine specifics, as well as about a dozen or so vendors who sell Pontiac specific parts. I also have accumulated over 200 bookmarks. the process has lead me to become rather frustrated. There’s lots of great information, but it’s all over the place and no one has a really good site map to all of these sites. Out of this frustration I am going to launch a new web site that will link to everything I’ve bookmarked. Stay tuned for an official announcement when the site is launched.

Aside from the Pontiac site-map web site I have planned, I’m also going to launch a video podcast of all the work I do on the car. Expect an announcement on that sometime this month as well.

The Details

My original plan was to freshen up the 400 I picked up last fall and drop it into the Trans Am. After stripping the top end of the motor down I discovered a lot of rust in the top of the heads and a lot of sludge in the oil pan. At this point it became obvious I would need to tear the motor down further.

In October, I finally got the motor further apart and found a lot of carbon build-up on the pistons, and I also found during the break down that an exhaust manifold stud was broken inside of the drivers side head. I reluctantly decided then I needed to take at least the heads to a machine shop. After further dis-assembly, I decided it would be worth the money to have the motor completely rebuilt.

I decided to take the heads, block and crank to Kauffman Racing Equipment located here in Ohio. They did a great job and kept me updated through the entire process.

Over Christmas I got a few books and a video on engine rebuilding. After reading the books and watching the video I decided that I (Yes I) will rebuild this motor myself! I was able to take it apart, I should be able to put it all back together, right? Following this decision, I’ve done the following:

  • Researched and purchased torque wrenches (I will have a detailed post about my research in the coming months)
  • Researched and purchased other specific tools (caliper, feeler gauge, bore gauge, plasti-gauge)
  • Researched and purchased specific books on Pontiac V8’s made from 1955-1979 (there is not much documentation for the last 3 years of Pontiac v8’s unfortunately)
  • Researched and purchased books on the Rochester Quadrajet carburetor
  • Took a welding class where I learned how to stick and MIG weld
  • Research specifics to the Pontiac V8 (350, 400, 455 cubic inch family specifically)

Last week I picked up my block, heads and crank from the Kauffman Racing and boy they look great. I have new pistons, new rods, a turned crank, 400 block bored .030 over , and new stainless steel valves and springs on 6x-4 heads. Oh, and the crank, rods and pistons have been balanced as well. Based on a compression calculator, I estimate the new compression of this motor is somewhere between 8.3:1 to 8.5:1. The head gasket I end up using will be the final determining factor of compression. Either way, 8.5:1 is ideal, that way I can run unleaded gas from any gas station in the country.

The Pontiac Community is Awesome!

I’ve met some pretty cool car guys that have been very helpful through the project. I will say that the stereotype that many folks associate with 70’s muscle car owners could not be further from the truth. It’s a pretty diverse crowd of car enthusiasts from all walks of life. What has surprised me is how many younger folks younger than I are 100% into the hobby. Another common trait seems to be hard work and dedication, which appears to not only show in their love of Pontiac but also in their careers and family life. What blows my mind is how GM not only failed to capitalize on this passion for the brand over the past years, but they completely turned this community away when they ended Pontiac.

What’s Next

The next 2-3 months will include rebuilding the motor, painting the engine bay, fixing the turn signal and the T-tops. Hopefully by summer she’ll be on the road!

Stay tuned, I’ll be posting pictures of the motor soon.


Garage is Finished!

This weekend got the garage walls painted. I went ahead and primed + painted the wood framing around the garage door as well. Only 1/4 of the garage hasn’t been painted, that’s the corner that already had drywall along the back/side walls along the house.

I had 2 little electric heaters running in the garage over the weekend, which maintained a 65 degree temperature in the garage for 24-28 hours after I painted to help it dry. One electric heater got the garage to about 50-55 degrees but couldn’t go beyond that without the help of a second heater.

Next weekend I’ll be re-hanging hooks, a new cabinet and the wheel barrel on the walls so there’s even more garage floor space (Heather can get her parking spot back).


Garage Door Insulated

The weather here in Ohio since Thanksgiving is not cooperating with my garage insulating project. So I can finish painting the garage, I need to get the garage door insulated. I considered using 2 garage door kits for my 16 foot wide door, but decided after reading reviews and considering the cost (over $150) that I should find another solution. I decided to get 1 1/2″ thick foamboard from my local Home Depot. The foam board came with a plastic tape on one side, and metallic material on the other wide. With the test piece I got, I discovered that it worked perfectly jammed between the upper and lower rails of a garage door section (see picture). I had to cut a vertical relief cut for each section of foam board that way the fit is very tight. I sealed each relief cut with a strip of matching aluminum tape.

I did this the first weekend of December. The following day I sanded the drywall to prepare it for paint. I only spent about half an hour sanding, and it still filled the garage with white dust. Next week comes the paint!


Garage Drywall Up

The Garage Drywall is up (Actually was up the weekend before Thanksgiving. The mud work was done the weekend after Thanksgiving, which took a long time since I’ve never done it before. Right about when I finished I finally think I got the hang of it.

Last step is to sand and paint.


Two Years with Google Android G1 – Looking for a Replacement

It has been well over 2 years since I got my HTC G1 with Google Android. The verdict? It has done it’s job, but it’s now showing it’s age. Running Android 1.6, I’m limited to which apps I can install. The lack of internal memory storage is also a problem, I’m finding myself uninstalling other apps I like just so I can keep Google Maps up to date. It’s time to upgrade for sure.

Reflecting on past posts One year with Google Android G1 compared to 6 months with an iPhone 3GS and Google Android G1 Week 2 Review, you can get a good idea of my opinion of the phone. I love the thing. Hardware wise, I love the keyboard. The software interface is excellent. Apps available, awesome. The latest apps and Android OS though have left the G1 behind, which is forcing me to upgrade.

I’ve been looking for a replacement for 6 months now. I really like the 3.7″ and 4″ screen models, and the processors the latest models come with in even the value priced Android phones function ten times better than my aged G1. So why haven’t I purchased a replacement? None have quite the same layout and feel. All the new phones with qwerty keyboards tend to use keys that are square with hard to feel edges. Sure, they are nice to look at, but is no solution if you’re used to typing without looking down before you start typing.

Potential Replacements

All of the replacements I’m considering have at least a 3.7″ screen, Android 2.1 or newer, a qwerty keyboard, and at least 4MB of internal storage.

Sprint’s Epic 4G – My first choice at this point, I find the keyboard the most friendly, though still not like the G1.


  • larger 4″ screen
  • I like the Keyboard
  • 4G support
  • Rumors are there is Sprint 4G service in Columbus Ohio
  • 10GB internal storage
  • Night minutes start at 7pm


  • Most expensive phone I’m considering
  • Does not have Android 2.2 (though it’s rumored to be coming soon)

T-Mobile’s G2 – My second choice, this phone would be a decent replacement.


  • I can stay on T-mobile.
  • Keyboard is ok
  • 4G support (no 4G in Columbus Ohio though)
  • Adobe Flash support
  • Android 2.2


  • Not confident that the keyboard flip out design is going to last 2 years

Verizon’s Droid 2 – I almost don’t want to consider this phone, but since it’s on Verizon, I am considering it since my wife is also on Verizon and we could switch to a Family plan.


  • Cheapest model, you can find this phone for less than $100 with a 2 year contract
  • 8GB internal storage
  • Android 2.2


  • I don’t like the keyboard at all
  • No visual voicemail without paying more money to Verizon

Unless something changes, I think I’m going to go with the Epic 4G. Rumors are it will have Android 2.2 this December, which is really the deciding factor for me since I’ve grown tired of the G1 because it is not getting anymore OS updates. I think I’m going to wait a couple more weeks to see if the Epic 4G gets Android 2.2. If it doesn’t, I think I’ll give the G2 a try.

Which Android phone do you suggest I upgrade to?


Garage is Insulated!

We got the insulation up in the garage this past weekend. My dad came down to help me (Thanks Dad!). Caulking and sealing holes/cracks took the bulk of our time. Putting up the insulation took maybe 3 hours once we got into a rhythm. We used 7 rolls of 40′ by 15″ R-13 faced insulation, three tubes of caulk, and 2 cans of Great Stuff foam.

This weekend we’re putting up drywall. I got lucky yesterday and bought the last carpenters 4 foot drywall square from Harbor Freight, which should make our job sizing the drywall easier.

I’m still trying to decide how to insulate the garage door. Lowes and Home Depot sell kits, but they seem overly priced compared to using sheets of polystyrene insulation sheathing (foam board). What would be perfect is a way to put the sheets of polystyrene foam board into the sections of the garage door then cover that with a flexible 16′ x 8′ sheet of white vinyl that will bend with the door when it opens and closes. Please leave comments if you have thoughts on this.