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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
You can see my introductory thread here, but this is the thread I'll be using to document my restomod.

Here's how she looks now.

I've already violated what is probably the first rule of any restoration: I'm not sure what my final goals are for the project. While I figure that out, I plan on fixing any mechanical issues that arise. Once that's done (in time for a cold, snowy winter to set in) I hope to have my goals figured out.

So far I've done the absolute basics: new battery, new fuel filters, new plugs, new belts, new thermostat, new air filter, new fuel lines, fresh oil.

Here's what needs some work sooner rather than later:

  • TH-350C has a slow leak (not sure where)
  • Speedometer doesn't work (wrong gears)
  • Gas gauge doesn't work (not sure why)
  • A/C doesn't work (compressor bad)
  • Heater doesn't work (missing relay)
  • Dome light doesn't work (door switch)
  • Headliner missing
  • Windshield washer reservoir & motor missing
Here's what will be addressed this weekend:

  • New steering wheel (Grant wooden three-spoke)
  • New tachometer (small Sunpro)
  • Inspect brakes
  • Inspect suspension
  • Drop gas tank to check sender
  • Try and find transmission leak
Here's what needs work later:

  • Dash clock is missing
  • Headlight switch is wrong
  • Front grill trim is broken on the sides
  • Passenger-side vent window won't operate
  • Window trim is bad
  • Drip rails don't work
  • It needs a real radio (and probably speakers)
  • New suspension bushings everywhere
So, there's nothing really pressing. Like I said, the plan is to try and fix the outstanding issues and then think about what I want to do with it once the snow falls (my garage isn't heated).

What it will certainly get is some new bodywork and a new paint job (hopefully Fathom Green with black trim). Hopefully it will get a relatively mild 383 crate motor, too.

I titled the thread a "restomod" because I'm not going to restore it to 100% originality. There's already some stuff that's non-original: TH350 instead of Powerglide; deep purple instead of LeMans blue; Corvette rally wheels; MSD ignition and some other things. My plan is to replace things that make sense (new-style A/C compressor; newer brakes) but keep other stuff original where possible.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Apologies as this update will be a little all-over-the-place. Haven't been taking as many photos as I should have!

One of the first things to do was the old, two-spoke steering wheel. I'm not actually sure it's the correct year for the car, but it's probably pretty close:



To remove the old steering wheel, there are a couple of screws that hold the large inner portion of the wheel (it's actually a giant horn button) to the wheel itself; those are removed from behind the steering wheel. Once those are out, gently pry the horn button off. Once that's out of the way, there is a large nut (3/4" I think) that holds the steering wheel to the column. Remove it. On my car, the steering wheel was stuck on pretty good, so I rented a steering wheel puller and just yanked off the old one.

It came out easily enough and was replaced by a three-spoken wooden steering wheel from Grant with a Chevy horn button:



It makes a pretty big difference! They're very reasonably priced (maybe $120 or so, with fitting kit) from Summit Racing.

Next up was the fuel system. As far as I can tell, there is a simple hard line from the fuel pump (mounted on the lower left-hand side of the block) up to the Quadrajet 4bbl carb. On my car, the hard line had been removed & replaced with some fuel hose and an inline filter. Both looked in pretty bad shape, so they came off. There's also a very small filter inside the carb body itself. If you remove the air cleaner, you can actually see <-- FILTER written on the carb body itself.





The old one was pretty gross:



Many people just remove it and go with an inline filter right after the pump, but I reinstalled mine. I then ran some new fuel hose and a new inline filter from the pump up to the carb body. Forgot to take a photo of the new line & chrome filter ;) The old line was so bad that I had to cut it off and tear the lines in half to get it off.
 

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Well worth the effort... keep us posted
 

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Discussion Starter #5
The next thing I tackled was the gas gauge. It hadn't worked in as long as I've had the truck -- at empty, the gauge read close to empty, but at full it was never more than 1/8 full on the gauge. The previous owner mentioned that he'd looked at it and determined the gauge was faulty, not the sender. The senders don't last forever, so I dropped the tank and inspected it. It looked only a couple of years old, so after running a new ground wire and cleaning up the connection for the signal wire, I reinstalled the tank and hoped for the best. Here's the old sender, cleaned up a little:



You can see it's pretty simple. There's a black sock-style filter, which hides the pick-up that sucks gas out of the tank. There's also a cylindrical foam float, which moves up and down depending on the level of gas in the tank. At empty, the sender transmits 0 ohms of resistance; at full it is 90 ohms. With a multimeter on the sender terminal, I verified that these readings were correct (which they were). I removed the old sender wire, soldered on a new one and covered it (poorly) with electrical tape. With some new flexible fuel hose to the chassis hard line, back on it went:



Then I drove to a gas station, left the accessory ignition on (so I could watch the gauge rise) and added a few gallons of gas. No dice :mad: I emailed the previous owner and he said that it took almost 140 ohms to make the gauge to go full. So, I found another gauge on eBay for about $30. It's also cosmetically nicer than my old one:



This is before installation!
 

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Careful with that rubber fuel hose...vibration may cause problems. I've ALWAYS hard-lined mine.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
In order to test the theory that the gauge itself is bad, I planned to unplug the old gauge and temporarily wire it to the new gauge to test it. Which sounds simpler than it is! Getting the old gauge out proved to be harder than I thought. It required the removal of almost all of the gauge cluster, which is held together in two ways: Phillips-head screws that keep the gauge face to the dash pad & support, and Allen-head screws that keep the gauge cluster to the gauge face. You can see in these photos that the dash face is starting to separate from the dash pad:



Note that the headlight knob is a couple of years too new. A correct one is cheap at around $15. They're supposed to look like this:



After disconnecting the wiring harness for the headlight knob (one big connector), windshield wipers switch (one small connector) and the heater & A/C motor switch (one small connector), the gauge face started to come off leaving the gauge cluster behind:



However, it wouldn't budge until I removed the four (I think..) 1/4" Allen-head screws that fasten the gauge face to the gauge cluster itself. Once these were removed, the gauge face came out:




At this point, I noticed two things I had suspected: first, someone had removed the OEM clock (the small circular gauge between the speedometer & gas gauge). And, the gear indicator (Park R N D L) is for a two-speed Powerglide, and not a three-speed TH350C. The car was built as a 'Glide but had been replaced with a TH350C and 2.73:1 open rear-end from a '71 Chevelle. Not only was the indicator incorrect for the car, but it never worked: the cable that goes from the column shift lever to the indicator is missing. Finding a new indicator lens (Par R N D L2 L1) is easy, but I'm not sure where I'll get a new cable. Here's what a new indicator lens looks like:



They're about $25 each new, but the cable isn't included. I haven't been able to find a replacement clock, either :( One thing I'd love is one of these miniature tachometers that go in place of the clock:



They're about $140 new. That'll be on the Christmas list I think!

Anyway, back to the gauge cluster. Now that I've got the gauge face off, I can work on removing the cluster. It wasn't too hard. There are about 8 light bulbs behind the gauge cluster (for backlight), as well as one large connector for the gas gauge and a metal clip holding on the speedometer cable. Press down on the clip (towards the gauge cluster), and the speedometer cable pops off easily. After that, you can pull the gauge cluster out of the car. Here it is on my living room floor:



That's the bad gas gauge, though. I tested the new gas gauge and it worked! Well, it read a little high with a full tank:



My plan is to have both the speedometer and the good gas gauge calibrated before I have them reinstalled in the car. That should be cheap, at maybe $20. At the same time I do that, I'll need to visit this guide and then choose the correct speedometer gears for the truck. I'm not sure what rear-end the truck was built with, but it has a 2.73:1 on it now. I'll need to match that with the current tire diameter and then choose the appropriate gear, and put that gear onto the speedometer drive unit (on the transmission itself). Hopefully that should give me a working speedometer & odometer!

There's also some mess I'll need to clean up. I imagine it's from the previous previous owner, as the actual previous owner was pretty skilled. You can see that there's a wire that goes nowhere (the white one), a large round metal connector (that's not connected to anything), and several wires joined together with wire nuts. Those nuts are designed for 120VAC residential uses, not 12VDC automotive ones :D



Last but not least, the previous owner installed a Sunpro gauge set with a water temperature gauge, oil pressure gauge and battery volt gauge. Kinda like this:



You can see he tapped one of the existing backlight bulb wires (they're grey & orange) to wire the backlights for the Sunpro gauges:



(The dangling connector is for the heater & A/C motor switch). Because the truck didn't come with a factory tachometer, I bought one of these from Summit Racing to use temporarily while I decide what to do long-term:



I'll piggyback the same backlight tap he used, and run power to the fusebox like he did:



You can see the orange connector (a Delphi type 56) going into the factory fusebox. Thanks to Matty B at CAL REWIRE in Rancho Cordova for identifying it, and for providing me a couple connectors to use for the tach!

That's it for now. Won't be much more interior work until I get the tachometer & speedometer back from calibration.
 

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Which one - the one between the pump and the carb, or the one between the gas tank outlet and the chassis hard line?
Between the pump and carb. The one from the chassis to the pump has to be rubber to allow for engine movement and vibration.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Just put that steering wheel in my 84...Re-Stained the wood to match the wood grain plastic on the dask...Looks great...
Did you have any issues with the installation? I can't get the horn button spaced out correctly. It's either too far out (which means the horn doesn't work), or it's too close to the wheel itself which means it won't lock on to the backing plate. I'll take photos to better explain this...

Between the pump and carb. The one from the chassis to the pump has to be rubber to allow for engine movement and vibration.
This is actually on my to-do list at some point. What's the easiest way to make a hard line? I've made brake lines before, but never fuel lines. I think I have a brake line bender somewhere.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Not much to report today. I sent the gauges off to Tachman, aka H&H Auto Electrical, who have an atrocious website but a great reputation. They're going to calibrate the gas gauge for me and check out the speedometer & odometer.

The speedometer works very intermittently, and the odometer has never really worked at all - it's gone up about 0.1 miles in the several hundred miles I've driven the car. Interestingly enough the speedometer cable is in good condition and I could see it turning when driving the car with the speedo disconnected.

The gauges came off their plastic support pretty easily:



There were a half-dozen small Phillips screws, all of different lengths and colors. I think someone's been in here before! I don't have a great memory, so I try and organize things this way:



Tachman's pricing seems pretty reasonable. About $10 to calibrate the gas gauge, and maybe $20-$40 for the speedometer & odometer. But I'll know more once he's received it.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
A few days ago (when I pulled the old gas gauge) I filled up the gas tank. This morning I went outside to find that a couple of quarts had leaked out of the tank onto my driveway. I trace the leak and find that it's coming from the gas cap itself, which seems odd! :confused:

I pulled the cap off and a fair few ounces spilled up and out of the filler neck. Does this mean my tank is overpressurized somehow -- perhaps a vent isn't venting as it should? It's a relatively warm day today (maybe 70 degrees already) but the weather has been the same for the last couple weeks. After some amount of gas came out of the cap, it stopped on its own volition.
 

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The new steering wheel and gauges look amazing! :You_Rock:
 

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Discussion Starter #15
The new steering wheel and gauges look amazing! :You_Rock:
Thanks! :nanawrench:

Trying to diagnose a slow-ish tranny leak. I cleaned the tranny up as well as I could, then parked it with some cardboard underneath. Here are the worst spots. Anyone recognize where this TH-350C would be leaking from?






 

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Discussion Starter #16
I think I'll pull the engine and tranny to check for both RMS and tranny leaks and go from there.

While the motor is out I'm going to re-do the intake manifold, carb and exhaust manifold gaskets (and oil pan too). I'd like to change the timing set as well. Looking on Summit there are about 11 billion options for the 350 SBC. Does anyone have a recommendation? I was thinking of something like this from COMP Cams or this from Milodon, though the latter may be overkill for my needs.

When it comes to a cam kit I was thinking of something like this from COMP.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Not much going on mechanically, these days. Right now I'm mostly just collecting parts and trying to decide what to do for a transmission and rear-end.

I've amassed a collection of parts from www.ss396.com, mostly interior odds and ends but also missing stuff the OP never got around to addressing: windshield washer reservoir, gauge cluster lights, transmission gear-shift indicator, battery retainer kit.

One curious thing is the logic (or lack thereof) in the pricing of restomod parts. And it's not the vendor, as the prices are pretty similar between vendors. For example:



This is a label for the gear-shift indicator. About $25 from any vendor that stocks one. It's a small, clear piece of plastic with the gear numbers printed on it. I say "printed" because it looks like it's been made with a professional laser printer.



This is an inner-fender splash guard/dust shield. About $10 from a pair for any vendor that stocks one. It's a pair of large, heavy-duty pieces of rubber presumably die-cut to size. They also come with heavy-duty staples and appear to be period correct.

Like I said, I have no beef with ss396.com - in fact that's where I tend to buy most of my parts. But it's interesting in seeing how some things that you would think to be cheap aren't, and some things you'd think to be expensive aren't.

Moving on, though. I'm not planning on driving the car during the winter, so right before I put the car up for the winter I plan on removing the engine & trans. in order to replace whatever seals are causing it to leak engine oil (and ATF) all over itself. Presumably it's the rear main seal and the speedometer drive seal.

Speaking of transmissions, this El Camino was built with a two-speed Powerglide. The PO swapped that out for a three-speed TH350, which is a pretty common swap; the TH400 is common too on big-block trucks. I'm not sure what the stock rear-end ratio is though, as the PO swapped out the rear for an open, 10-bolt 2.73:1 out of a '71 Chevelle. When you combine a TH350 with a 2.73:1 and an old 225hp small-block Chevy, one thing you don't get is rousing performance.

In that vein, I'm planning on swapping out the rear-end for either a 3.08:1 or 3.43:1 - 10 or 12-bolt, I don't care. I'd like a positraction (LSD) rear if I can get one, but they get pricey quickly. The reason I'm only making such a small rear-end ratio change is that I'm planning on going with an overdrive 4-speed: a 700-R4 or a 200-4R. Both are 4-speeds and both are big improvements in terms of efficiency and ratios. Here are the ratios:

TH-350 1st gear is 2.25:1, 2nd is 1.52:1, 3rd is 1.00:1
700-R4 1st gear is 3.06:1, 2nd is 1.62:1, 3rd is 1.00:1, 4th is 0.70:1
200-4R 1st gear is 2.74:1, 2nd is 1.57:1, 3rd is 1.00:1, 4th is 0.67:1

You can see that the 700R4 would give you better performance off the line, even compared to the 200-4R. However, the 200-4R has a smaller drop between 1st and 2nd and 2nd & 3rd. 4th gears in both are pretty much the same. Either way, a 700-R4 or a 200-4R would give a great combination of better acceleration (higher 1st gear) and better mileage (existence of a 4th gear).

When you factor the rear-end ratios in, things get interesting. The stock 2.73:1 rear with a TH-350's 2.25:1 first gear gets you 6.14. If you upgrade to a 3.08 rear with a the 200-4R, you get 8.43. With a shorter first gear and a shorter rear-end, you're always going to get better performance off the line. When you look at highway cruising, a 2.73:1 rear with a TH-350's 1.00:1 third gear gets you (obviously) 2.73. If you hook up at 3.08:1 rear with a 200-4R's 0.67:1 fourth gear, you get 2.06. Better acceleration and better milage. This would hold true with an even shorter rear-end, like a 3.43:1, and also if I used a 700R4 instead.

Speaking of which: the main driver for a 200-4R is the ease of bolting it up. It's the exact same length as the TH-350, which means I won't need to shorten the driveshaft. The 700-R4 is about 3" longer, which means I'd have to shorten the driveshaft. Not a big deal, but less work is less work! While the 700-R4 is slightly stronger, more popular, and cheaper to upgrade, the 200-4Rs are also widely used in factory V8 & high-performance applications. So there's no shortage of parts for them either. Because they were made for so many cars, they're cheap; I'm going to pick up a used 200-4R next week for $75 with the torque converter.

Until next time...
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Just a quick update for now. The fuse panel for the truck is located in the driver's side footwell, and I must have kicked it recently as the headlights & turn signals suddenly stopped working. Lo and behold, one of the fuses had popped. They're simple ATG-style fuses, so I replaced the offending fuse (20 amps) and the headlights came back to life. The turn signals were still FUBAR, though: if you used the turn signal, the light would come on and stay on (i.e. it wouldn't flash). A quick trip to the auto parts store for a LL552 flasher module ($6.29) and I had working turn signals!

Before I started this process, I took the time to review the '69 Chevelle/El Camino wiring diagram, which I got from Ground Up. It's a faithful copy of the factory wiring diagram, which means it's in black and white. It looks like this:



It wasn't too hard to decipher, once you know the color abbreviations (which are mostly self-explanatory) and some of the other abbreviations: LP for lamp, for instance. In a couple of cases, I was confused by the color codes; after some quick Googling I found this color diagram from a Team Chevelle member. It made it easier, except for one tiny thing: the author uses a shade of orange to denote red wiring. :) Still, it was very helpful in making sure I was barking up the right tree.

On a more interesting note, I got a note from Gary the Tachman saying he had finished with my gauges. The gas gauge has been calibrated ($30; it was off by 1/8th of a tank) and the speedometer & odometer had been repaired & calibrated ($150 with a 1-yr. warranty). He said that the #2 worm gear had broken, which means the odometer wouldn't work; also one of the magnets used for the speedometer was replaced so it should have a smoother action. The price was a little bit higher than I would have expected, but he came highly recommended. He also cleaned the gauges. This is how they looked before:



And this is how they look now:



It's hard to tell how big of an improvement it is from the photos, so I'll post another picture once I receive them. I'll probably end up removing them from the steel housing so that I can media-blast & repaint the housing.
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
Found this in the back of my dash. Not sure what it is, but it looks factory. Wasn't connected to anything - but then again, my interior is missing a few bits! Can anyone identify it?



Perhaps some kind of connector for a factory clock? My car was built with a clock but a previous owner removed it.

Also, can't seem to find out what this connector was supposed to go. I didn't cut the wires myself :???:



Colors appear to be grey, brown, green, dark blue. It's not for the headlight switch, or the windshield wiper controls, or the high beam switch, or the heater controls (those are all accounted for). Maybe it's for the A/C? My cruck has factory air. I looked on my wiring diagram but it doesn't have A/C on there, just heater switch & heater blower resistor.

Actually I just found the Four Season wiring diagram for my year. I can't find a matching switch with those colors there, either.
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
I spent most of the weekend trying to find a short-circuit in the steering column that was repeatedly blowing my turn signal fuse. My El Camino is equipped with a tilt column, and I think that over time the tilting had pulled on the wiring enough to expose some conductors and short them. The process was a little more involved than I thought, as I had to get a couple of extra tools.

First things first, the steering wheel has to come off (obviously!). I rented a steering wheel puller from my local auto parts store, though I may just buy my own. After the steering wheel comes off, I removed the small adapter that attaches my aftermarket wheel to the factory column. Which exposes this assembly:



The assembly is a steering wheel lock plate. And it's removed with, unsurprisingly, a steering wheel lock plate removal tool. No one seems to rent them, but they're only about $9 new. The tool doesn't remove the actual lock plate; rather, it presses down on the lock plate so that you can pry the retaining clip off the steering shaft:



Here is a close-up of the clip on the base of the steering shaft:



With the clip off, the lock plate simply pops off. Here, you can see the turn signal lever (in the foreground) and the column tilt lever (in the background). The green circular assembly is for the horn. A small wire sits in a spring in the cylindrical opening you can see on the assembly, when the horn is pressed it completes the circuit - the back of the green assembly is metal. Pop the horn assembly off, and you're left with this:



This is the turn signal assembly. (I've already removed the turn signal lever.) It's actually two pieces of plastic, joined together. The front half of the assembly has the cam that controls the action of the lever, whereas the back half of the assembly has the mechanism to provide power to the signals:



It's not particularly elegant, but it works. My wild-*** guess is that on a modern car, the turn signals are simpler than an older car. You need to be careful taking this apart as it's a combination of springs, wires, pins and contacts. It's also really dirty! You can see in this picture the positive and negative wires. The terminals themselves are slightly smaller than a single grain of rice:



Here is the front half of the turn signal assembly, completely removed. The dull build-up in the right-hand corner isn't actually a burn mark, rather it's just some kind of grease as well as a waxy residue. I've since cleaned it up.



Here's the back of the same piece, with roughly the same issue:



And then I ran out of time 'cause of Hurricane Sandy.
 
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