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Discussion Starter #1
I'm working on rebuilding and outfitting my '79 El Camino for the GRM challenge, which involves running it in both an autocross race as well as a standard 1/4 mile drag race- all on a shoestring (roughly $2k, including buying the car...) budget. As such, I'm looking for all the tips I can get for improving the handling & suspension of the car- including lowering it- on a budget, and choosing the improvements that give me the most bang for my buck. I also need something of a 'priority' tree of what is most important vs. things that are just useful if possible.

Where I am now: I've managed to track down what should be all of the front end reinforcing braces (upper diagonal braces, jounce bars, Grand Prix under-radiator brace). I've got a manual steering rack out of a S-10, and I also should be shortly (like, later this afternoon...) grabbing the front springs off that same S-10 as its stock springs should provide a bit of a drop. At the same time I'll be hunting for a Grand Prix steering shaft to complete the improvements to the steering system.

The rear springs HAVE to be replaced as they're clearly not the right ones for the car, and I seriously doubt they'd perform properly under hard cornering.

What things are most highly recommended for improving the handling of our cars, and what would you put as being most important? Thanks!
 

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I am somewhat knowledgeable about low buck things (hear the laughter in the background?), so here ya go....

Lowering/stiffer springs - for the fronts, while you have them out, cut a full coil to lower 2 inches, 1/2 coil for 1 inch. Use a cutoff wheel or get a cutoff blade for your 7in circular saw. For the rears, you'll have to buy some, as both ends have pigtails, so you can't cut them.

If you can't fit urethane bushings into your budget, here's what we did in the old days to stiffen up old bushings. On one side, screw in five 2 inch sheetmetal screws into the bushings, all the way in till the head is snug to the bushing. Make sure they are evenly spaced around the bushing. then flip it over and put in 5 more from the other side, so that they are evenly spaced BETWEEN the first 5 you put in. Sounds strange, but cuts WAY down on the bushing flex and will last for about 2 yrs if you get them all the way in. Works equally well on control arm bushings and spring bushings in leaf spring cars.

Leave the grand prix shaft alone and go with the jeep shaft conversion. Lots of posts here about that, do a search.

Tranny Mike turned us all on to Superior trans parts. High quality/low price. use this link then click on distributors, to find a dealer near you. Cost me $47.00 for the stage 2 shift kit for my 200R4!!

http://www.superior-transmission.com/

back in tjhe 70s, the trick tire setup for running slalom I and II (I did both) was to shave your tires down to 2-3/32nds tread depth. Worked great on BFG T/As. Tire tech has come a long way, but you still want 2-3/32nds tread depth. more than that, and you get into tread flex. Has the same effect as flex in sidewalls or suspensions, not a good thing. Find a set of good wide tires that someone has replaced and are worn evenly, may get them for free if ya talk nice. ("those old worn out things?")

Now this will sound strange, and funny, but you will also need to play with how much gas you have in your tank. Gas weighs 7-8 lbs/gal, and having that much weight slosh around is noticable on a slalom track. On the other hand, a full tank won't slosh, but will drastically affect your weight distribution front to rear. Like I said, you need to play with diff tank levels, and use a scale to check.

If your weight distribution is WAY off, you may want to play with bolting down some weights in the smugglers box. Just regular weight lifting weights like you can find at a yard sale, or even big chunks of bar stock. Just be sure and fasten them down, unless you like getting hit in the back of your feet with heavy objects.

you may also want to bolt a small extension onto the brake pedal (take the pad off first). Extend it towards the gas pedal about 1-2 inches. Makes it easier to "heel/toe" around the corners.

That oughta get you started.

:poke:
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I am somewhat knowledgeable about low buck things (hear the laughter in the background?), so here ya go....
I've been reading the forums for a while now, and have seen a lot that you've posted about working on the cheap and adapting things so I'm well aware of your reputation and skill. :nanawrench:

Lowering/stiffer springs - for the fronts, while you have them out, cut a full coil to lower 2 inches, 1/2 coil for 1 inch. Use a cutoff wheel or get a cutoff blade for your 7in circular saw.
I'm hoping that the S-10 springs I just got (well, I got one... but the other will take a LOT less time when I head back later this week...) will accomplish what I want in the way of lowering the front without having to cut any springs, as well as being a stiffer spring.

For the rears, you'll have to buy some, as both ends have pigtails, so you can't cut them.
Yeah, that's what I've largely realized too. I may pick up the least expensive of the lowering spring kits and see about selling off the front springs to get that much back out of the budget.

If you can't fit urethane bushings into your budget, here's what we did in the old days to stiffen up old bushing...
That's something I've not heard of before, and will almost certainly end up using. Once the Challenge is over next October, I'll be going back and doing things in the car the 'right' way, including putting the poly bushings on, putting in real carpet, fixing the creative 'sub box' a previous owner put in the bed (and cut out much of the forward portion of the bed to do so... :dontknow:) So, saving the money from the bushings and having it elsewhere (perhaps being able to afford the nitrous kit for the drag race...) would be great!

Leave the grand prix shaft alone and go with the jeep shaft conversion. Lots of posts here about that, do a search.
Actually, it's the Grand Prix reinforcing bar that runs between the outboard attach points of the jounce bars, not a steering shaft that I was referring to. I picked up a Jeep shaft while I was at the u-pull-it yard in town today, so that along with my S-10 manual gearbox should tighten the steering up nicely (and save me some weight from the P/S gear).

Tranny Mike turned us all on to Superior trans parts. High quality/low price. use this link then click on distributors, to find a dealer near you. Cost me $47.00 for the stage 2 shift kit for my 200R4!!

http://www.superior-transmission.com/
I'll have to look into that. I hadn't really given much thought to putting a shift kit in the TH350, but if they're that cheap it may be worth it. I actually HAVE a T5WC from an S-10, but am figuring that as much as I'd LOVE to be driving it with a stick instead of an auto, there'll be enough other things to take care of without doing the auto to stick conversion (and having the cost of the new transmission in the budget).

back in tjhe 70s, the trick tire setup for running slalom I and II (I did both) was to shave your tires down to 2-3/32nds tread depth...
Tires are probably the one area that I'm not at all worried about. I have a set of 16" R-compound tires that were what we used on the Camaro that we ran in the Challenge this year that still have plenty of runs left in them. I'm going to be hitting up the local SCCA racers to see if they can throw any more old ones my way when they replace them so I can get as many practice runs in before the Challenge as possible to improve my driving (even though there are professional drivers that do runs with your car- it IS a car building competition, not a driving competition- I have my pride, and want to get the best time I can on my own...).

Now this will sound strange, and funny, but you will also need to play with how much gas you have in your tank. Gas weighs 7-8 lbs/gal, and having that much weight slosh around is noticable on a slalom track. On the other hand, a full tank won't slosh, but will drastically affect your weight distribution front to rear. Like I said, you need to play with diff tank levels, and use a scale to check.

If your weight distribution is WAY off, you may want to play with bolting down some weights in the smugglers box. Just regular weight lifting weights like you can find at a yard sale, or even big chunks of bar stock. Just be sure and fasten them down, unless you like getting hit in the back of your feet with heavy objects.
Weight distribution is something that we've considered. My Elky has a very weird mod that I mentioned earlier- a previous owner cut out a large chunk of the front of the bed to install this huge box that presumably housed a subwoofer large enough to shake the wheels off: http://gallery.me.com/rbabcock#100134/IMG_1223&bgcolor=black. We're looking at potentially relocating the battery to there since it can largely be segregated from the cabin and thus be in compliance with SCCA rules. A second battery- to power all the accessories (I'm decking the car out as a classic police pursuit black & white... complete with working light bar- http://gallery.me.com/rbabcock#100134/IMG_1257&bgcolor=black) will certainly be going back there. The gas levels are definitely something to play with, and something else that running it in the local autocross this coming year before the Challenge will be useful for.

you may also want to bolt a small extension onto the brake pedal (take the pad off first). Extend it towards the gas pedal about 1-2 inches. Makes it easier to "heel/toe" around the corners.
That's something I will have to look in to... hopefully I can take a cue from some of your adventures and find a cheap source for the extension. :p

That oughta get you started.

:poke:
Thanks! That should help out a lot! I'm sure I'll have lots more specific questions as I go along, but that does give me a whole lot to digest and a good starting point! :You_Rock:
 

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Make a pattern out of carboard, then transfer it to 3/16 in plate. play around with diff shapes until you get one that works for YOU. You can even get short lengths of angle and strap in 3/16th thickness at lowes for about $6-7.
Fasten it to the brake pedal with a couple 3/8 in bolts. When you're done at the track, unbolt the extension and slip the pedal pad back on and no one will ever know.

BTW, S-10 and elkie springs are interchangeable, and the same size.

here's a link to how I made my own set of bars. It's easy if you think about it. I got the SS tubing at the recycling center for about $7-8 for all of it!!


http://s1028.photobucket.com/albums/y342/goofuslives/braces/

:nanawrench:


a peek at some of the other stuff I been up to! (BTW, that new (to me) engine is a 305 I bought from a coworker that wrecked the truck it was in. Has 10K miles on a fresh rebuild, with an RV cam. I paid $150.00 for it, and he delivered it and loaned me his engine hoist to boot!! Some days it's good to be me!) Snagged the intake, quadrajet, and 2 other heads at the recycling center a couple months ago. I paid $22.50 for all of that!! They're off of a '70 307, and the heads and carb have about 6300 miles on them since the were bought reman from advance (I think). In one of those 1st 2 links, there's a pic where you can see the paper rebuild tag still on the back side of the carb. According to the casting #s, the engine is an 80-84 305, w/HO heads w/1.85/1.50 valves. the heads were reman 10K miles ago too. RV cam has a mild lope, he thinks it is like 450-460 lift, 284 duration, or close to that. Similar to a Lunati "bare bones" cam. My $2.00 headers ought to work great on this combo!! :p

http://s1028.photobucket.com/albums/y342/goofuslives/intake/


http://s1028.photobucket.com/albums/y342/goofuslives/tricks/


http://s1028.photobucket.com/albums/y342/goofuslives/trick2/


http://s1028.photobucket.com/albums/y342/goofuslives/tricks%203/
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Make a pattern out of carboard, then transfer it to 3/16 in plate. play around with diff shapes until you get one that works for YOU. You can even get short lengths of angle and strap in 3/16th thickness at lowes for about $6-7.
Fasten it to the brake pedal with a couple 3/8 in bolts. When you're done at the track, unbolt the extension and slip the pedal pad back on and no one will ever know.
I've got several strips of 050" aluminum I rescued from the recycle bin at a plant I was out working at a few weeks ago that I may see if I could make work for the pedal extension. I may also see if any of the local recycling centers allow you to actually buy things from them... I've only been there in the past selling scrap. :p

BTW, S-10 and elkie springs are interchangeable, and the same size.
I knew that they were interchangeable (I wouldn't have spent all the time I did pulling the one this afternoon if they weren't, though I did also learn a good bit about how to go about it on the Elky in the process too :p), but I thought that they usually resulted in an effective drop on a Camino...

I wish that I could have such good fortune in getting things so cheaply... it would make this a WHOLE lot easier. I have no idea exactly what cam is in the 350 in my '79, and probably won't until I pull it and take a look at the internals. I'm generally pleased with the deal I got on it overall, but definitely also have a long ways to go (both mechanically and appearance-wise...) before it's ready for the Challenge. Of course, I've got something on the order of 11 months to accomplish it, so I'm not TOO worried yet. :p
 

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another cheap upgrade is 82-90 F-body (Z/28 and Trans Am) frt swaybar. get the mounts and bushings too. you may have to drill one hole each side for the chassis mounts, but otherwise a bolt-on. Get the 1.25 inch hollow ones. will need new F body end links too. Do a search on here.
 

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If you are looking for a cheap rear brake upgrade, here's a good one

Find an early 70s (71-76) GM B body. That's Impala/Caprice, Bonneville, olds 98, or big buick. There are gazillions of them around, look in salvage yards, BACK YARDS, and in the want ad papers. You can find a lot of these just sitting in yards, and with just a little luck, can get the whole car for free if you haul it away.

Everyone knows about using the front brakes/spindles off of these cars, and if you get one for free (or under $100), go ahead and grab those by all means. But they require a new upper control arm to use in an elkie, and that's not what I'm talking about right now.

Stroll back to the other end of that big boat! They will have a 12 bolt rearend (way too wide for an elkie) with 11 X 2 or 2.5 inch rear drum brakes on it. Grab those big rear brakes!!! Have to pull the axles to get the backing plates, but is good practice, cause you'll need those too! You'll prolly have to drill new holes to mount the backing plates to your elkie, but other than a lil work to get the mounting holes to match, this is almost a bolt on. (worst case, cut the centers out of the elkie backing plates and weld them into the B body backing plates) May also need a small adapter to mate the brake lines to the B body wheel cylinders. Won't need a new MC, proportioning valve, flex lines, or any of that stuff that adding rear discs would need, and you substantially increase your stopping power at the rear. (this would also be considered a stealth modification, if your elkie is all stock like mine!)

BTW, if you get one for free, take the trans and maybe the engine too, depending on what it is. Can get the trans rebuilt while you're still driving yours, and if you live a clean life like me (stop all that laughing!!!) you could stumble into a 400 small block, a chev big block, or even a 400-455 pontiac. (did you realize that many 200R4s, incl mine, have dual bolt patterns? fit Chev and also B_O_P. I swear if I can find a nice 400 poncho, it's going in my elkie!!) Save the hood and trunk lid off of that boat too. can lean against the walll in your garage and you'll have acres of sheetmetal to make all kinds of neat stuff (incl patch panels for bodywork!)! If, like me, you aren't as concerned with where things came from as you are that they work for what you want, you could prolly get a bunch of patch panels out of the floor of that boat to weld into your elkie's floor. Many of them also had double hump trans crossmembers in them from the factory that could be modified/cut down to fit an elkie. Why........a smart person might even find window/door lock switches, door lock actuators, headliner material, and all kinds of things in that big boat..........if they bothered to look! :rolleyes2:
 

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Before I forget again, I need to make a point here. There are about 300 employees (total, incl part timers) where I work. I occassionally interact with the guy that sold me this engine, but see him all the time.
His truck was hit in the RR wheel by a drunk driver in a company car (not our company). He got a great settlement over that, but also kept his wrecked truck. His brother wanted the front sheetmetal, and the rebuilt trans.

HE CAME TO ME and asked me if I wanted the engine for my elkie (everyone knows that I am redoing that old elkie that sits behind the deisel shop). There was no negotiating, I aksed how much, he said $150, I said hell yes!. He brought it in to work on a Sat morning in his new truck (purchased with insurance settlement), and let me use his engine hoist all day too. When he came back to get the hoist before I left that day, we loaded my old engine into his truck too, and he took that away (part of the deal). He said he has a buyer for it too.

My point is this........let people know what you are doing and what you are looking for!! I was gonna put those reman heads from the recycling center on my old 305 and go with that for awhile. New cam, oil pump, gasket set, timing chain, etc. I was figuring on about $300 just to kinda freshen up my old 305, and this guy walks up and offers me one with 10K miles on it, with a cam, for $150. I really think that my guardian angel wants to go cruisin in my elkie too!:littleangel:

The ladies (and some of the guys) I work with ask me every so often how my elkie is coming, and they all want rides when it's done. Seems like I have a large "supporting cast"! LOL
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Before I forget again, I need to make a point here.... The ladies (and some of the guys) I work with ask me every so often how my elkie is coming, and they all want rides when it's done. Seems like I have a large "supporting cast"! LOL
My office is for better or worse somewhat smaller (120 or so), and an engineering office, but a fair bit of my co-workers know what I'm working on and doing- or at least that I'm doing SOMETHING car-related (as I've had several project cars over the last few years), and regularly chat with a dozen or so of them about where the different projects are. Last week things took a bit more interesting of a turn, as I was shooting the breeze with several of them about weekend plans and how I was headed up to one of the larger u-pull-it lots in the area to hunt for G-body parts. One of them jokingly said, "Yeah, maybe you can find me a new fender while you're there...", and I ended up compiling a list of parts from a bunch of people that they wanted/needed for their own cars. Unfortunately I only found half of what one person wanted (yay for Explorers being ubiquitous in salvage yards...), but I'm hoping (and will encourage...) word gets around that I'm willing to look for parts for people because at a minimum, it subsidizes my own runs to the yards and also makes nice connections with my co-workers. :)

Unfortunately, I'm at somewhat of a disadvantage when it comes to picking things up and hauling things- the largest vehicle I have a the moment (besides the several months from roadworthy Elky...) is a Saturn sedan, so I have to call on friends or rent something to be able to haul a vehicle anywhere (or abuse my AAA Plus membership, which I try not to do too much...) or pick up engines. I did learn though that you can easily fit a T5 in the back seat of the Saturn last week... that poor car will be getting some serious cleaning once I get the Elky on the road and can haul stuff in it...
 

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A couple odds an ends from an old autocrosser:
You hadn't mentioned suspension, other than springs. G-body cars (Grand Prix, Regal, Monte etc.) were available with a rear sway bar and a 32 mm front bar that will bolt right in your Camino. Keyser mentioned the Z28/ Trans-Am hollow front bar. It's 36 mm, larger than the G-body 32 mm bar, similar roll resistance because it's hollow, but lighter in weight. I prefer the 78-80 rear bar that's straight across from side to side, as opposed to the later bar that has bends to dip under the rear end centersection. I've tried both and the earlier bar feels stiffer. Definitely spend the few bucks for urethane bushings and firm end link bushings for the front bar- difference is noticeable. Also a cheap rear brake upgrade if you stay with the stock shoes and drums are 7/8" bore wheel cylinders from a '82-'88 S10 w/o power brakes, replacing the stock 3/4" bore. Shocks are an area with a multitude of choices. KYB monotubes at around $35 each are a good value for the street. AFCO racing shocks are about $65 each for their "street stock" direct bolt-in series. From there, the sky's the limit, depending on funds. Also, the "smuggler's box" behind the seat is an excellent place for a battery mount, low and centered in the vehicle.

Bill
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I've been trying- unsuccessfully- to find a rear bar off of ANYTHING. Closest I've found was an early 90's Caddy which I figured wouldn't bold up properly at all. At the moment, I'm figuring I'm going to be fabricating something myself on the cheap. Since I'm planning on pulling both front and rear suspension apart and cleaning and painting (or powder coating, yay for Harbor Freight and Craigslist!) the parts we're going to be boxing the rear drag arms out, and probably putting in a way to bolt on a custom sway bar.

I've not seen the kind 78-80 rear bar, just (in pictures/on eBay) the one that bends around the center section. Does the 78-80 one just bolt directly between the two lower drag arms? Do you have any pictures of how it works?

My Elky seems to have relatively new shocks on it, so I'm planning on seeing how they work out before looking into replacing them. All 4 are relatively easy to replace compared to things like the shocks, so I'm not worried about replacing them when I have the suspension all apart.

The bushings for the front sway bar and end links are something that I may be able to pull off budget-wise. More likely I'll buy the full bushing set and then FMV just the parts that I end up using.

Thanks! I appreciate all the suggestions and input! Keep them coming! :beer:
 

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LOL 10-4 on using the car to haul things. That's why I call it the maximino. I keep an old U-Haul moving blanket in the back seat to protect the upholstery, and sometimes pad that with a large carboard box folded out flat.

Something else I keep in the trunk that comes in REAL handy..... Ya know those big poly storage boxes that are like 2 X 4 feet, and a couple feet deep? Keep an eye out and grab the lid from one. Lay that on your trunk floor. There is a lip around the outer edge of those lids that's 1-1.5 inches tall. Can put greasy parts and things that may be dribblin fluids a lil bit on that lid, and the lip keeps it from staining the trunk mat! Have used those for yrs! Sure is nice to set a pair of greasy cylinder heads on that lid and not have to worry about making a permanent mess in the trunk! Just shoot it with the wand at the car wash if it gets too dirty, and if you puncture/tear it, throw it away and find another one. I have found them in the dumpster here at home, and even along side the interstate.

My favorite price! FREE!!!
:nanawrench:
 

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On those shocks.....

This goes back to stealth mode, and everything being completely stock, like mine is, but you realize that if you tape off the shaft, you can paint those shocks, don't you?

I painted mine orange (cause I like painting things orange), but you can use any color ya want. And if ya paint your new hi zoot KYB shocks orange and then tell everyone that they are just cheap stock replacements from KMart or Wally World, cause your elkie is just stock anyway, how can they tell you're not "exagerating" just a bit?


Not that I would do that mind you.

:secret:
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Heh. Oh, believe me- I'll be painting/powder coating a LOT of stuff orange- one of my favorite things about the Elky that I picked up is its VERY orange and black bench seat: http://gallery.me.com/rbabcock#100134/CIMG0337&bgcolor=black. I'm planning on painting orange stripes down the center that line up with the seats, and doing the interior all in black and orange as well as powdercoating/painting parts black and orange.

I may end up painting the shocks I have now just to do it (I AM aiming to score high in the concours, after all...), but I wouldn't do it to conceal using a higher-grade part. There's a LOT of ways you can cheat, and honestly for a car like mine that isn't likely to be a top-tier competitor in either of the races, I could probably cheat my rear end off (which would likely be the easiest to get away with, coincidentally- claiming the car had come with a high-ratio posi rear instead of the stock low-ratio open one...) and not have anyone think to look closely or care, but I want to do it right and be competing on the level. In some of these competitions, trying to get away with breaking the rules as much as possible and getting away with it is part of the fun of it, but the Challenge isn't one of those (though bribing the concours judges IS, to hillarious effect...).

Once the Challenge is done, I'll be doing a number of more costly improvements to it, like ripping out that weird box-thing and repairing the bed, doing the normal suspension upgrades instead of the ultra-cheap ones and things like that.

I've got U-Haul blankets, but I usually keep a tarp in the back. I stupidly have removed it the day I ended up with the transmission last week though, and ended up using a collection of small trash bags the u-pull-it people gave me and a few old floormats that I keep in the trunk. What will be MOST interesting is if I manage to track down a good, cheap topper for the Elky and trying to transport THAT back before I have the car itself running... a Saturn sedan running around with an Elky topper strapped to the top of it will doubtless be quite a sight. :wow:
 

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I've not seen the kind 78-80 rear bar, just (in pictures/on eBay) the one that bends around the center section. Does the 78-80 one just bolt directly between the two lower drag arms? Do you have any pictures of how it works?
The older bar bolts up just the same as the later one, to the inside of the lower control arms, in the same holes that are already punched in the arms. The main difference is that the bar actually is straight from side to side, so it passes directly across the rear end cover.

Bill
 

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Strap it to the roof of your Saturn upside down, then tell anyone that asks (with a straight face of course!) that "It's a boat. Why?"

:dontknow:
 

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I just clicked on that link and saw the seat in your elkie. now i got a woody!

:laugh: :sigh:
 

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This a good post,, and I can say "Keyser" rules the what you can do for free world,,, also if you use the stock rear 4 link a-arms,, weld a stringer to close the bottom gap so you box the arms,, and dont forget to put in spacers for the sway bar,, tack them in,, I have a set you can use for the comp if you like, not sure of what bushings they have but they were welded up and I plan on using them on my 79 2 door Malibu,, but you can use them, just pay shipping to and from,, just let me know,, Matty man:beer:
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Keyser- I'm not all that far away just being down in Lexington, so if you're down my way (or I'm up closer to you- the rest of my team is up in the Cinci area) you're welcome to oogle the seat. :p

matty- We've been planning on boxing the control arms and reinforcing them wherever possible- I've got a friend who welds for a living, so will have a lot of assistance and a great teacher to learn how to do it myself (which will be quite necessary given the driver's floor pans on mine are a disaster to say the least- http://gallery.me.com/rbabcock#100134/CIMG0345&bgcolor=black- though thankfully the car did come with the replacement floor pans included in the price of it). I appreciate the offer though!

One interesting thing that I found while searching around today- though it isn't a real surprise, I'm apparently not the first one to have designs on using an Elky in the Challenge: http://www.elcaminocentral.com/archive/index.php/t-3313.html I can't find anything regarding the results or if he even made it there or not, but I'm checking with my friends who have been to a number of them to see if they know or not.
 
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