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1970 El Camino 350 Daily Driver Project - Lots of modern Modz

47193 Views 492 Replies 24 Participants Last post by  sdcerreta
I am new to this forum. I am hoping to share some of my modz and project work while gaining some insight from others as well.

I have been building a new 2019 Subaru Forester Sport for the past year or so since buying it. I am glad to learn that the El Camino Central forum uses the same forum engine. Should be easy transition.

I am known for posting detailed build projects with lots of photos and hope to do the same for this project. I will share a little about this car and then I will move forward with some projects.

This car belonged to my father-in-law. He bought it in about 1990. It was his pride to work on. He did a restoration himself including the paint. There is nothing original about this car. It does not have matching numbers. He built it the way he wanted to drive it and he was proud of that.

Before his passing, the car had sat untouched for about 3 years. We fired it up and in his last year of life we spent some time working on the car together. Since he has passed, I slowly began moddifying this car in about 2015 to become a daily driver. Like him, I wanted this car to be what I wanted to drive and enjoy. I also want this to be a car to remmeber him by and one that my wife will drive and enjoy as well, especially since it was her father.

Since 2015, my wife feels scared to drive this car. My pursuit has been long but continues with the premise that I want to convert this car into something with a modern and reliable feel. I have no interest in keeping this car original at all. Therefore, this project build is all about performance, comfort, and reliability.

And away we go . . .
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Scott - Test like below for bushings
Open the doors to about 45 degrees.
Pull up on the rear portion of the door.
You should see the El Camino lift, yet you should be able to see if there is slop in the bushings.
Damn it, why did you tell me this. I have about 1/2" of slop. Now I have another project and this one does not look that easy.
Usually it is the bushings on the top hinge that wear most.
That is partially why they drop to the lower rear.

Tape the edges of fender and doors to help avoid scratches.
There should be searchable posts here, on Chevelle site and YouTube.
We used a hydraulic jack and two people (need the eyes).
Some folks have used a soft sling and an engine hoist.
Let's encourage others to share their thoughts and images.
It looks like the driver door has 0.5cm sag and passenger has 1cm sag. The driver door top bushing is cracked and opening up. You are right! That bushing is the problem. It also looks like the driverside has been replaced because the pins are upside down as many videos show to pound them in from teh bottom. But, the passenger door looks original and the pins are in with the caps on the top.

I did plan to use tape. Good tip. I was planning on using a jack but I was also going to unbolt the 6 bolts in the door to remove the door completely. This will give me more access to the hinge pins so I can pound or cut them out. Is there any problem with doing it this way???

Here is the driver hinge with broken top bushing. You cna see the 3 bolts I was planning to remove. I hope this works. I had these all loose to align the door and it did not seem that bad. I want to avoid removing the fender and the other part of the hinge that is under the fender.

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A quick update for today. More blackening continues. The signals came out very good. I like the look. Now I need to pull teh lenses again and blacken all the screws and the metal light assemblies.

A couple weeks ago I had more problems with the exhaust. It seemed like I had an exhaust leak or engine ping. Since installing the headers with wrap I always had some smoke and odor when driving hard. I figured this was part of the beak-in period. But, now the noise. I also keep throwing bolts off the collectors. Both sides. So, as I was diagnosing, I noticed that all the header bolts on both sides were loose. I torqued everything up and the noise continued.

So, today I stopped by the muffler shop. They did determine that the exhaust gasket on one side with teh noise was blown. So, this got replaced and I had them install some new black double wall tips. They look great and the car is running better than ever! I took it out for a test drive and I had much more horsepower. I also no longer had the odor after driving hard at high speeds. It seemed that there was liking a small leak for quite some time until the gasket blew out.

Here is a photo tutoial of some more progress.

Rack is going up. These are the old tips.

New tips are 4" black double wall. Pipes are 2.5".

A throughput shot.

The angle will be aligned with the bumper.

The azz end is rocking! I need to go back and paint the screws black. I will also pull the light housings and spray them black as well.

Full body shot from the rear. Just got out of the muffler shop. Now I gotta go for a test drive. Weather is nice today and almost all the snow melted.

Out for a drive, I stopped for some scenic photos.

Another full body shot. I even blackened the grill push on trim. It is hard to tell it is on there, but it was chrome before and it really stood out.

Better angle of the grille trim. It adds the complete look without popping out like the chrome.

Another look at the rear. It will be so much better when the housings are black.
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It has been a while since replacing mine. I understand wanting to take the hinges off to do the repair.
I actually purchased 4 new hinges.
That way, the reduced labor costs offset the parts costs.
If doing yourself and your shop time available, repairing hinge bushings is a good approach.
We took the doors off with hinges still connected.
What I can't remember is; "Did Justin thread a long head cut off bolt in replacing top bolt to make sure the receiving end inside the fender did not slip?"
We also replaced all of the hinge bolts, which might have not been needed.
The area under where the hinge bolts to door and fender is going to be ugly.
Add time and consider cleaning it up. Will you brush surface rust, sand and repaint? Consider it now and you won't be shocked.
Thanks for the tips. I already completed the job. I will post results later. I ended up removing doors and rehung them all by myself with help from a jack. Not too terrible.

Much more room to do the work with doors off. Im glad I did it this way. I did cut all the pins. Getting old bushing out was the hardest part. I also installed new pins the correct way, top down, which cannot be done this way if the doors are on.

More to share later as it will serve as a good DIY reference for myself and others in the future.
Exterior Trim Blackening Project

It has taken several days to get all this done, but WOW! I am very pleased with the outcome. Before getting the car back from the paint and body shop, I was content with a mix of chrome and black trim. However, after seeing the car it did not look right. So, I decided that all the trim will go black. The only exterior parts that are not black are the wheels.

The remaining pieces include the door window frames, hood edge trim, door edge trim, taillights, reverse lights some screws.

Here is a photo journey of the project. Let me know what you think.

Trim Painting-30 I tried to remove the door window trim, but it was beginning to bend, so I decided to leave it on. I got everything taped, then I rough sanded with scotch-brite red to score the surface, then air blow and wipe with alcohol. Then painted with etching primer, 1 coat.

Trim Painting-33 Then I painted with 3 coats satin black and 3 coats satin clear.

Trim Painting-32 I repeated this process with the remaining parts.

Trim Painting-35 Wow what a difference on the doors. These really needed to be black.

Trim Painting-36 So did the lights. All the parts back here are correct GM, but not all original to this car. The housings had pitted chrome and really needed to be re-chromed or blacked. You can also see in this photo that the bumper was not hung correctly. It actually looks worse than the photo reveals. I corrected this today too.

Trim Painting-37 I was not going to put the door edge protection back on, but I really wanted the protection so on they went. These got bent during removal so getting them back on was tricky. I was scared when they kept popping off because once they went on it did mar the door finish. So, if I was to remove them you would see those scratches.

Trim Painting-38 Here is a goof. Apparently I did not trim this piece of tape to fit. I used a black paint marker (which has a pretty good matching color and sheen). This works great for small touch-ups.

Trim Painting-39 Here you can see the left part of the bumper is not tucked inward far enough. I was able to improve the it, but it is not perfect. I am not sure if it is me or there is something tweaked with the new bumper or the mounting brackets .

Trim Painting-40 You can see the right side is much lower and more tucked compared to the left side.

Trim Painting-41 The front bumper was nearly perfect. I could find anything worth correcting. Nice and centered too, where the rear bumper is also sitting too far to the left.

Overall I could not be happier.
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Here are a few outside photos of the car.

This is the first car wash since painting. I also wanted to wash off any overspray and dirt from the weekend projects. Next weekend I shoudl have time to clay bar the vehicle and put a polish on it. No wax yet. I have to call teh shop to find out how long I shoudl wait for that. I do not recall the normal wait period.

1970 Cement El Camino-11

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1970 Cement El Camino-13

1970 Cement El Camino-14

1970 Cement El Camino-15

1970 Cement El Camino-16

That is all for this weekend. I shoudl have time tomorrow to post the hinge replacement video.
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Looking really clean Scott. You've done a real nice job with the car.
Scott When looking at the new images. I hear the Camino say "There is supposed to be my dog in the back". Did Wife's GrandPa have a dog?
The images are well done!
Yes. We still have him. Getting pretty old. He is deaf and maybe has cancer. He was in surgery today to have a couple small masses removed.

Dorado is a trim, 30 pounds of weiner dog. He rode in the car a coupel weeks ago. He walked right over the center hump and tried to lay down by my feet. I image Dewey would have let him do it.

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Door Hinge Pin and Bushing Replacement​

This project was a success, but I did have a few challenges. I removed the doors for this project and this really is the best way to do it. I was able to handle the doors by myself with the assistance of a jack, but two people would have made it a little easier, but not much. I installed the new pins in the proper direction, from top down. A shortcut is to leave the doors in place, cut out the pins and pound in a new top pin from bottom up.

The hardest part of this project was removing the old bushings. This proved to be difficult and the bushings are brittle so they break easy and it is hard to find the right size punch that fits perfectly.

When I tested the door sag there was about ½” movement on the passenger door and 3/8” movement on the driver door. It was obvious that the door hinge pin had been replaced at least once and the top pin was pounded in from bottom up. This suggests that the door was left on to replace the pin.

I think this will serve as a good tutorial for me in the future and maybe others as well. I have zero door sag in the driver door now and I still have about 1/8” movement in the passenger door even after installing new pins and bushings. I suppose the hinge holes are likely a little worn.

Here is the photo tutorial.

Hinge Pin Replacement-1 This is a look inside the door jam. Each door requires 2 hinge pins and 4 bushings. These kits are commonly made my Dorman and sold at most local auto parts stores. This is the top hinge assembly. There are 3 bolts holding each hinge to the door. The pins should be installed top down. All bushings are installed from outside the hinge towards the middle of the hinge. In other words, the top bushing is pressed in from top-down. The bottom bushing is pressed in from bottom-up.

Hinge Pin Replacement-2 I was able to manage the doors with the assistance of a jack. This is placed under the door with a 2x4 that rests on the inner portion of the door to prevent marring the paint. I lifted the jack to put a little bit of tension, not much. The next step is to remove the 6 bolts holding the hinge to the door. Actually before doing this be sure to apply tape to the fender, door bottom and door side closest to fender. I did not do this up front, but in hindsight, tape all your edges before removing the doors.

Hinge Pin Replacement-3 Here is a look at the hinges. There are a few things to note. 1. The bottom hinge has the spring, stop and roller pin. This is what allows the door to stay at mid-open and full-open position. 2. One hole (inside hole) is larger than the others. This is the bolt that permits for movement in the door to adjust the up, down, inward, outward adjustments. The other two bolts should be just loose enough to move the door. When fitting, I would only tighten the inside bolt until I got the door just right. Then I would tighten down all three and double-check the fitment.

Hinge Pin Replacement-6 Here is a look at the door jamb section. There is a one-piece plate with three female nuts. This will freely move allowing for full door adjustment. The thing to note here is that when you try to line the door back up to install the bolts, this piece will move a lot. I used a pick and inserted it in the outward bottom hole to align the plate, then I inserted the bolt in the inside hole. Once this bolt grabbed a couple threads, I was able to easily line up the two outward holes.

Hinge Pin Replacement-8 Here are a few of the tools I used. Actually I did not use the air hammer. You will need a cutoff angle grinder and a door hinge spring compressor. This is about $12 at the auot parts store.

Hinge Pin Replacement-9 You must remove the springs to unload the doors so you can pop out the pins. This tool make the job fast and easy. Work on one door at a time.

Hinge Pin Replacement-10 Here the spring is out. Once the spring is compressed leave it in this state until you are ready to reinstall the spring. This saves time and extra steps.

Hinge Pin Replacement-11 This is the top hinge. Put a little tape on the hinge to keep it from swinging when you cut the pin. When you cut the pin make sure you cut at the highest point. This is important. You will need to pry the pin upward here to remove the small piece. The less distance you have to move it, the easier it is. Once this piece is out, you can insert a punch through the top and pound the other piece of the pin downward to remove it. Factory pins have barbs that prevent them from being pushed back towards the middle of the hinge. So, think smart here and remember that your configuration may be slightly different from mine.


Hinge Pin Replacement-12 Here is the bottom pin cut and ready for removal.

Hinge Pin Replacement-13 I have a nice long punch that makes it easy to pound the bottom portion of the pin all the way down.
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Hinge Pin Replacement-15 Here is a look at the complete pin once removed. The next step is to pound out the bottom pin and set the hinge plates aside. Then we can move forward with removing the bushings.

Hinge Pin Replacement-16 This is the top hinge on the driver door. You can see two bushings in place. Both are pressed from outside towards the middle of the hinge. These are made of brass and soft. So, they can break easily which will give rise to door lag. You can see the bottom bushing is split. This bushing was like this before I tried to remove the pins.


Hinge Pin Replacement-17 Removing the bushings is difficult. If you happen to have a long punch that is the same diameter as the outside of the bushing, then this will be easy work. I used a combination of a punch and other tools to pop these out.

Hinge Pin Replacement-18 Each pin kit comes with 1 pin and 4 bushings. There are two steel, larger bushings and two smaller brass bushings. Each door took 2 pins, 1 steel bushing and 3 brass bushings.

Hinge Pin Replacement-19 Here is my bushing press. The best way to insert the new bushing is to press it in. Using a hammer is likely to cause damage to the bushing or it will insert crooked and therefore you are more likely to have a sag in your door. A simple bolt, nut and washers that allow the bishing to come out of the bottom about 1/16” will do the trick.

Hinge Pin Replacement-20 Use a socket and wrench to press in the bushing. Remember, press from outside towards the middle of the hinge for all bushings.

Hinge Pin Replacement-24

Hinge Pin Replacement-21 Now put the hinge plate back on and insert the new pin. I used an old pin to pound this into place. These pins are barbless, but the heads have ribbed area to stay tight once locked into place.

Hinge Pin Replacement-22 Be sure to get the head sitting flat against the hinge plate. I used a small hammer. A very large hammer may actually bend the hinge plates, so be careful.

Hinge Pin Replacement-25 Putting the door back on was not too hard. I put the door back onto the jack and moved it into position. This was tricky, but doable. The hard part was lining up the nut plate inside the door. What worked best was using a pick through the bottom outward hole. Then I inserted the bolt into inward hole, got a couple threads started. Then the other bolts went in easy. I tightened all three bolts. Then I tested the door fit. From here you loosen the two outer bolts just enough to move the door. Leave these loose. Now loosen the inside bolt. Remember, this is the adjuster bolt because it has the big hole in the hinge to allow for the most movement.
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Hinge Pin Replacement-26 Now just keep repeating this process until you get the door properly aligned. The gap at the bottom should be about 1/8” to ¼” above the bottom door frame and it should be equal from front to back. If you have less gap towards the rear then you have sag or there is misalignment with the hinge under the fender. This is a real pain to adjust and requires removing the fending once the door is on.

Hinge Pin Replacement-27 The gaps are not perfect, but much better than how the paint shop hung the doors. There is no play in this door at all either. When I do the door test, the whole car starts to move rather than having a lag.

Hinge Pin Replacement-28 Nice alignment here too.

Hinge Pin Replacement-29 Now that everything is aligned, I tightened all 6 bolts and I am ready for paint.

Hinge Pin Replacement-32 All taped up and two coats of base color with one coat of clear coat.

Once I completed the drivers door I moved onto the passenger door. More challenges with the bushings on this door too. All in all, this took about 8 hours to complete both doors. I have about 3 hours into removing the old bushings. I would definitely do this again as the reward of having sag free doors is worth the effort. I would also remove the doors and not risk all the other headaches of having the doors in place. In fact, I could not image how I would have removed the old bushings with the doors still on.
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At some point in time I am going to upgrade the interior. I am liking the TMI products. I will go back in color with a center console and buckets. For now, I am settling on another Lokar product. They have a series of handles for the interior which look really nice.

Like everything I have bought from Lokar, these handles are great looking and function better than OEM.

Photo tutorial:

Lokar Handles-1 I chose the black midnight series. I will show the install for the vent window.The others are the same. I did have to use a dremel on the door armrests in order for the handle to operate correctly.

Lokar Handles-2 Instructions are the same for all three handles: Door, window and vent window.

Lokar Handles-3 Here is a look at all the pieces seperated.

Lokar Handles-4 Here is the OEM vent window crank. There is a lot of play in this handle. Time for an upgrade.

Lokar Handles-5 The first step is to pop off the clip and remove the handle. This exposes the splined spindle.

Lokar Handles-6 The first piece to install is the shaft insert. It has two set screws that locks down on the spindle. No more loosey goosey C clip.

Lokar Handles-7 Now slip on the trim ring. You want this to touch the door panel or be within 1/8", If it doesn't than pop off the shaft insert and trim down the spindle with a cutoff saw.

Lokar Handles-8 Next comes the crank arm. I started with the window tightly closed and I positioned the handle at 90deg to the floor. All handles are equal and look good when windows are closed.

Lokar Handles-9 Now the washer and button head bolt will afix the crank arm to the insert shaft for a tight connection.

Lokar Handles-10 The last piece is the cap. This is held in place with an oring. Great all around fit and function. I love these Lokar parts.
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Two quick videos that demonstrate the function and looks of the new Lokar handles.

Part I

Part II
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Those look like they function really well. They also seem like it would make door panel removal much easier than trying to get that darn clip off. I'm always reluctant to do anything behind the door panel because it means I have to fight with the clip in order to get all the handles off. I will be looking into these probably after the holiday.
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After a nice long holday weekend in the Grand Canyon, I had plenty of time to think about the El Camino. hahaha. I decided on performance over cosmetics. So, the interior upgrades and color change to black is on hold. Gear Vendors on order. So excited to try this out!!! I really want to pair this up with paddle shifters, but struggling to find somthing that will fit. The floor switch that GV includes is a simple on/off button, so I do not need a complicated paddle shfiter. I think I can likely convert any paddle system that fits my Grant steering wheel to work with the GV electronics. They are also sending me there push button switch, so I may be able to integrate that in some fashion.

So so excited for this one! Next up after GV is to swap out the rear diff gears to 3.73. This should give me all the fun I really want.
I installed the Detroit Speed Selecta-Speed Wiper Kit. I will post that tutorial later in the week. The hardest part was installing the switch, since I had to fabricate a new mount behind the dash since the plastic mounts were all broken.

Today, I also swapped out the Lokar brushed aluminum pedals for the black anodized. Looks much better. Same great function.

I also installed the Lokar tranny dipstick mount.



Lokar Tranny Stick Install-1 I already pulled the OEM tranny dipstick before I took the photo. It was located where I am pointing. This tube comes up by the distributor. When I bought the Lokar I had the option to purchase firewall mount or tranny mount. Since I could not see this stick mounted to the firewall, I assumed that it was a tranny mount tube, so that is what I bought.

Lokar Tranny Stick Install-2 When I pulled the OEM dipstick out I realized that the one piece rigid tube had no mount. It was just friction mounted right into the tranny case. When this came out, so did about 1/2 liter fluid. So, be ready for this. You will replace the fluid after the new stick is installed.

Lokar Tranny Stick Install-3 Here you can see the Lokar dipstick tube in place in the tranny case. There is a small rubber piece that comes off the dipstick. Mount this into the tranny case then push the dipstick into place. No need to undo or tighten any of the fasteners.This fits a little loose. But, once the upper piece is fastened to the tranny bell housing, it will put pressure on the tranny case and lock the tube into postion.

Lokar Tranny Stick Install-4 When I first got the dipstick, I was worried that it was too short. Well, now I know why. The tranny mount version does not come up next to the distributor. Instead, it is nicely positioned at the rear of the right side valve cover. It is a little tight to work in the space, but doable. Here I just got it into position before removing the bell tower bolt.

Lokar Tranny Stick Install-5 Now it is mounted. There is just enough play to move it around for the right position. Don't let it touch the headers or anything else and make sure there is enough clearance to insert the fill tube and a funnel. This postion worked for me.

Lokar Tranny Stick Install-6 Here is a close up.

Lokar Tranny Stick Install-7 Now the dipstick was inserted. Lokar impresses again. I never would have thought to mount my dipstick in this position, but it works and has a bolt mount instead of just a friction mount like the OEM tube.
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Detroit Speed Selecta-Speed Wiper Kit Model # 12160​

This kit offers a modern solution for cleaning the windshield in inclimate weather. It has 5 delay speeds, low and high. It also has an optional washer kit that can be installed. The billet switch will replace the factory switch and you can push it in for the washer and turn it clockwise in steps for each delay from slow to faster to low speed to high speed.

This will be a big improvement over the OEM wiper kit. I did have a major concern that was not addressed with the online description of this product. I am also in the middle of the install, so I do not have all the answers yet and hope to provide those answers soon.

The concern is that I have a 1970 El Camino with recessed wipers. This kit is designed for the 1970-1972 models with sweep gauge and non-recessed wipers. So, I may lose the recessed feature, not sure yet. I think many people may be in this position and think this product will not work in their car. I did see other discussions where this kit should work with the recessed wipers. Time will tell.

When I started the project, I planned for 4 hours. As my wife likes to point out, most of my projects take twice as long as I plan and she was certainly right on this one. The major obstacle I faced was with the switch replacement. The mounting poles for the switch are built into the lower dash assembly and these are plastic. 50 year old plastic, that is. Of course, I noticed that one pole was broken, one was already repaired with glue and in the process of removing the screws I managed to break all 3 mounting poles that hold the screws. So, much of this install time so far has been spent on my back under the dash trying to fabricate a solution so I can mount a new switch.

Here is a photo tutorial:

Selecta Speed Windshield Washer Upgrade-1 Here is a look at the OEM wiper motor with a recently updated OEM-style washer pump. These take up a bit of space on the firewall.

Selecta Speed Windshield Washer Upgrade-2 The new wiper motor was quick to install. The OEM-style washer pump will not work with this kit. If you want a washer pump, Detroit Speed makes you buy it as an additional part.

Selecta Speed Windshield Washer Upgrade-4 Here is the OEM switch. You push it in for washer and slide it to the right for low then high speed. No delay options and my motor performs pretty jaggedly and slow. The entire black piece in the middle will be pulled out and the new one will be installed from behind.

Selecta Speed Windshield Washer Upgrade-5 Here is a view of the mounting poles. There are three. And then there is a metal grounding strap that is mounted to the two right poles. The top right and bottom right poles are broken. You can see the top left pole is cracked and I managed to break it all the way when working on the fabrication.

Selecta Speed Windshield Washer Upgrade-7 Here is the OEM switch and hardware. I decided to use two small metal plates to mount to the dash, then the screws will mount into the white spacers. In this photo I started by super gluing the spacers to the metal brackets.

Selecta Speed Windshield Washer Upgrade-8 Then I used a small strip of 5-min pipe compound to reinforce the spacer to the bracket.

Selecta Speed Windshield Washer Upgrade-9 This is my first attempt on the mounts. I had several problems. 1. The spacing was not quite right for the screws to line up. 2. The metal brackets were too close to each other and the new switch did not seat flush against the dash. So, when you view it from the front side, there is an obvious gap. You can see that I reinforced the upper left pole with pipe compound.

Selecta Speed Windshield Washer Upgrade-10 This is my second attempt to mount the brackets. Spacing was better but the brackets still created a gap. It was a very small distance I needed to go so I pulled out the dremel and grinded some metal to make the fit just right.

Selecta Speed Windshield Washer Upgrade-11 All the grinding is done. The switch now has a very good seat. The two right poles lined up well, but I was off on the upper left pole by 1/8” so I had to use pipe compound to keep that piece in place. I also had to push the grounding plate to the side. The space I was working in was too tight to get all these pieces lined up so I just moved them. The grounding strap is still connected to the original ground location and functions as it should.

Selecta Speed Windshield Washer Upgrade-13 The wiring comes in a plastic loom, but the wiper wires and washer pump wires are in two different looms and require two holes through the firewall. I wanted to avoid this and it seemed like the wires were long enough to reach the washer pump. So, I cut the washer wires, fed them through the main loom with 1 1/8” grommet (needed for passing the big connector) and I was good to go.
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