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Unread 09-28-2012, 05:59 PM
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Default Vorshlag ChumpCar '98 Firebird V6 Project

Project Introduction: This is the first post on a new project that I am a part of but not in direct control over, and it is not a "Vorshlag Build". A couple of old college racing buddies and I are going in together on a crap can endurance race car build. If you are living under a rock and don't know what that is, there are two competing Wheel-to-Wheel endurance road racing series (24 Hours of LeMons and ChumpCar) where racers have a "$500 budget", buy a piece of crap car, do some safety upgrades and a few repairs, add a roll cage, then go tearing ass around road courses from here to Leguna Seca.

My first and second CrapCan rides: a 1991 BMW 318is and a 198X Camaro

Both series have been going for several years and together this "Crap can racing" phenomenon has grown in popularity. We regularly see fields of 40-60 cars at the Texas events. I have run a couple of LeMons races and have watched a few others. My first taste of crapcan endurance racing was February 2011 running the BMW E30 318is above at Eagles Canyon Raceway (ECR) with a 24 hour of LeMons event (double 7hr race). Then I got a ride in Costas' 3rd gen Camaro in another LeMons race at ECR in December 2011. On top of that I did a 4 hour endurance karting race last December. I had such a blast driving in these 3 endurance races in 2011 that I convinced two close friends to join forces to create our own CrapCan entry for use on track late this year or next. We ended up talking about it for a year before we finally chose the car, found the candidate, and got off our butts and bought it.

Who is Picking this Hoopty?

If you read my build threads you will recognize their names - Jason McCall and Paul Magyar. We decided a democracy was a bad idea so Jason is the team leader and will make the critical decisions. Paul has his own autocross/track car build (this GC Subaru coupe with an '05 STi swap) and Jason has his Z3M Roadster LS1 and a former Nationals winning BSP autocross Corvette. I have 6 or 7 of my own car projects. So what on earth are we doing building a crapcan car? Well... none of us has a W2W car so we joined forces to make one.

Jason and Paul are shown goofing for the camera, above

We talked about a bunch of different chassis choices and benched raced a half dozen semi-serious ideas before we finally blew them all off - the numbers didn't add up and would put us clearly over the $500 budget. Everything we chose was RWD, which we feel is the most reliable platform for racing at this budget level (other than Paul, who kept saying "Subaru!"). RWD eliminates hundreds of potential $500 cars. We also wanted to use something which was built after the mid 1990s, to solve a lot of reliability problems, electrical issues, and pretty much guaranteed the car would have a somewhat modern and efficient fuel injection system (I frakking HATE carbs). That eliminated all of the "fast" cars that were left. After racing with and without ABS brakes in LeMons, I felt that a decent ABS system was a *must* for easy passing under braking (the 318is could out-stop anything on track!), which narrowed the field even more.

All of our dream builds would cost too much money. You cannot buy a running 1990s BMW E36 or mid-90s-up V8 powered F-Body for $500, which were two of our top choices. I know, some people still end up sneaking them into one series of the other, but we were going for a legit $500 car.

Are We Actually Buying This Thing?

After all of those restrictions we had to throw away all of our dream cars, but at least we stuck to our minimum requirements and bought the biggest pile of crap car that nobody wants: a 4th generation "F-Body" Firebird with a V6 and a manual trans. Even when we settled for the lowly V6 F-body, we still had a bare minimum wish: NO T-tops, NO automatic trans, and the 1998-2002 range was much preferred.

Look at this gem - who could resist that allure?! We had to buy it

Finding a V6 T5 car with no T-tops proved a tough search but we found a theft recovery + flood salvage titled car (a rare "double loser"!) in the back of a junkyard in July. He wanted $800 so we let the guy stew for a few months and came back and bought it in September for $500. Whoo! I've never been so happy to buy such a pile of sh!t.

This 1998 Firebird had been broken into, the front bumper cover and headlights were stolen, and the door latch and lock cylinder were gone on one side, but otherwise it was still mostly intact. The owner said that "it ran before they tried to steal it, and we drove it to where it sits now", but the battery was long dead. The jimmied door had been propped open in this field for 2 years so it was full of grass, critters, and smelled like a pack of hobos had been living in it for months. Oh well, all of the carpets and interior were destined for the Dumpster, so we didn't care. These "features" all made for good negotiating tactics.

We hauled it away on a trailer and went straight to the self-serve car wash to try to get the black mold off of the paint, so we could see how bad it looked underneath. After $2 in change the exterior cleaned up pretty well, but we found some unimportant body damage. We dragged it back to my house and unloaded it from the trailer to take a closer look inside. Oh damn the smell in there! Maybe more like a hobo slaughter house? There was a nest of fire ants under the hood we need to see about fumigating, and we never did get the rear hatch to open (probably find Jimmy Hoffa back there). It has been parked in my driveway for two weeks - the petition from my neighborhood's residents to have it hauled away and burned is circulating.

TV Tip: This Sunday Sept 30th at 12 noon CST on SPEED Channel they will be airing the Optima Challenge Event which the Vorshlag 2011 Mustang GT should hopefully be featured in. Set your DVRs.

Goals? Thoughts? Dreams?

I doubt we will figure out some super secret advantage, so don't expect to see a Brawn F1 Double Diffuser breakthrough on this car. We all just want to build a cheap, reliable, durable car with cheap consumables. Another major goal - it must be CLEAN. We won't be slapping mud and oil all over the car to make it look worse than it is, as McCall and I are neat freaks, so it might be the cleanest car on the grid (at least at the beginning of a race).

Some of the other ideas will become apparent as we go, but the basics are simple and proven: run as much tire as we can get away with, decent brake pads, and gut the heavy interior out of the car. But we have to get it running, first.

If/when this rolling hobo shanty is actually running, then we will then get a used front bumper cover, add a race seat, slap on some cheap C4 Corvette wheels and 200+ treadwear tires, replace the brake pads/fluid, then take it to a track day and see how it runs. If it is hopelessly slow we can punt and dump it before there's almost any money invested into it.

Will there be anything innovative or cool on this build? Probably not. We will try to make some of our scatter brained ideas happen on zero budget, and some of you reading have seen what we could do with almost no budget...

Yes, I suspect there will be some woodworking done on this car. Plywood is cheap! We should ask for Home Depot gift cards for our birthdays. I'm already seeing a team name... "The Hobo Lumberjacks?" Yea, that's terrible. Gonna need some help here.

While we have to have a team name (and it won't say "Vorshlag" on it), there won't be any silly theme/funny hats/costumes, and we might even get docked laps for that. This is just 3 guys building a cheap W2W car, meeting both the letter and spirit of the rules, trying to have fun and go as fast as we can. The cage will be over-built, and this is one of the only things that will be built in the Vorshlag shop (but still done after-hours). Not that it matters, as these series allow for good cages and safety gear without dinging the budget.

Engine and brake cooling will get as much attention as we can afford to throw at it. Whatever we can find at Home Depot is fair game, so look for us in the "Drier Accessories" aisle soon. Hopefully I've learned a few things from the two previous teams that were nice enough to let me co-drive their CrapCans, and if we are lucky we won't make too many new mistakes.

What's Next?

To get this project kicked off we plan to wrench on it for most of the day Saturday at my house. We need to try to charge the dead battery, fix the door latch on the driver's side, yank out the interior, clean some mud off the underside, and drain the fuel tank (it will be nasty varnish after 2 years of sitting). Luckily I have a lift, plumbed compressed air, and some limited tools at home. And plenty of cold beer.

I suspect this will be the least impressive build thread I have ever documented, so don't get your hopes up. And of all that we have started this one has the highest probability of a "crash and burn" failure. Can you tell I am trying to set LOW expectations here? We're going to do this one just for fun, and not the fame and fortune (ha!) that comes with our other forum thread builds. The GRM $2010 Challenge car was a lot of fun and these two knuckleheads were two of the key wrenches on that build, so we have a little experience with a uber-low budget build, but I'm sure we will learn as we go. As with that build, we are again looking to you guys out there for tips and tricks. We know that there are hundreds of teams that have done LeMons and Chump already and we can't pretend to know any more than any of them ahead of us, so speak up if you see us blowing it.

Question: If anyone has some cheap 17x9.5 C4 "sawblade" wheels or a front bumper cover for a 1998-2002 Firebird, please PM me.

Check back next time to see if we found some fatal flaw (yet) and have decided to drop this car from an airplane...

Last edited by Fair!; 11-06-2012 at 02:37 PM.
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Unread 10-03-2012, 10:10 AM
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Default Re: Vorshlag ChumpCar '98 Firebird V6 Project

Project Update for October 3, 2012: Last Saturday, our gang of three met at my house to work on the '98 Firebird. It wouldn't start and we couldn't get the hatch to open, among other issues. Our goal for the day was to gut the interior, charge or replace the battery, and see what we could get working. The weather was perfect - raining and cool, but not cold. With this weather we weren't missing a good race weekend either.

Paul came by my place early and we met McCall for breakfast at Cabana. Came up with a game plan, stopped by the shop to grab a few tools and my pressure washer, then headed to my garage at home to tear into the '98 Firebird.

We started by cleaning more funk off the underside of the chassis. With the car on the flatbed trailer and inside the car wash bay we got it fairly clean, but now we had it jacked up in the air in my driveway so I could get underneath with a rain slicker on and blast everything in sight. The transmission was covered in muck, as was the bottom of the oil pan and rear end - got those pretty clean. The insides of wheel wells were more accessible with the suspension at full droop so those got blasted too. Pounds of mud, grease and funk were falling off the chassis. After 20 minutes of this, I was soaking wet for the first time that day, so I went inside and changed into shirt number two.

The guys rolled it into the garage and one of the first things I did was try to charge the old battery while it was out of the car. Brought my Schumacher smart battery charger home, hooked it up to charge, and it was reading 0 volts on the old one. I had the old battery sitting on a little trickle charger for two days prior with no luck. I set Schumacher to a 6 amp charge and within 15 minutes it had it up to 16%, but then it stopped and showed "BAD BAT" on the display, which means it had a shorted cell. No worries - I was prepared and had a stock replacement Bosch battery ready. It bolted right in up front. Viola! All sorts of things started working. The guys popped the rear hatch and even tried to crank the motor. Whoa! Slow down, let's get the old fluids changed first.

I was working under the hood and on the hood hinge itself, replacing some missing hardware and getting the hood to align with the fender. I look up and local autocrossers Dean Yamada and Mark Wortham had arrived - sweet! More help. They dove right into the interior (quite literally) and helped Paul and McCall pull the former hobo trappings out.

The four of them made quick work of the interior and before I knew it the interior was completely out (except for the dash) after only about 45 minutes. I looked at this big pile of bits and saw a few things we could sell to recoup budget... then the guys reminded me this was NOT a GRM Challenge budget build and ChumpCar has none of those accounting tricks. You get your "AIV" (avg internet value) on the car, and that's it. So they convinced me to toss all of this raggedy interior into the trash and so we loaded it into Paul's truck, in the rain.

With the truck bed completely packed full and the headliner strapped in place, Paul and I took off for the shop where I have use of a rented Dumpster to unload. Don't worry, none of it was good enough to reuse and it all might have netted us $25 or maybe $50 on CraigsList, with those associated hassles. None of us are starving students anymore or wanted to mess with storing or selling it, so we threw out $25 worth of crap. Oh well.

What I can't show because it was POURING RAIN and Paul was warm and dry inside the cab, was me unloading all of this from Paul's truck bed into a Dumpster. It was coming down in buckets and I told Paul to stay dry so only one of us got soaked, and boy did I! Every square inch of clothing was drenched. I ran over to the back door of the shop and grabbed some clean car towels and dried off a bit, then said "hi" to Ryan. He was in the shop working on a 2000 Camaro Z28 we had purchased for the stock LS1+T56 drivetrain for a customer's turn-key E36 M3 swap. He saw me slosh in the door and had a laugh. Paul drove over and we grabbed a few more things we had forgotten (my house has crap for tools!) and headed to O'Reily's Auto Parts.

We grabbed a $19.99 oil change special with 5 quarts of Castrol GTX and some "microgaurd" oil filter. Then after a Sonic Drive-Thru food haul, we trucked back to my place to feast on burgers and tots, and I changed out of a soaked shirt yet again. They had the car already up in the air on the lift and we got started on the oil change. Filter was on there good and the oil looked like mud, but thankfully there was no coolant or water in there. Three whole quarts came out, from the stock five quart capacity (facepalm)

While Paul and I were out dancing in the rain/grabbing food and oil, the rest of the crew was trying to get fuel into the tank. The gauge read below "E", but it wouldn't take any more fuel? It would start to go in, then come all back up and spill out. Hmm, weird. This will take some more investigation. And wouldn't you know who shows up next? Ed from Pirtek. McCall and I have known him for years and he's a fellow 4th Gen. F-Body racer, but of the drag racing persuasion. He mostly shook his head at us and made fun of the car, but he had some good insight into a few things we hadn't messed with on these cars and we appreciated the help.

Another thing McCall, Dean and Mark worked on while we were gone was removing the SPRING SPACERS from the rear coil springs. That's why the car had such a rake (facepalm). They had also found evidence of NEON LIGHTING, with the mounts still attached to the pinch weld seams along the sides of the floor pan. Dean and Mark hadn't intended on staying more than a few minutes and had been there two hours, so we thanked them for the help and they took off. Ed left at the same time as well.

The exhaust system on this V6 Firebird was epic - well, an epic FAIL. This kind of made me mad because some goober probably paid a muffler shop good money to make this hodgepodge of poorly bent steel. Normally the stock F-Body exhaust has an under-oil pan crossover pipe from the driver's side that merges into a Y-pipe behind the passenger side manifold, then a single exhaust pipe into a big catalytic convertor under the front passenger seat, and finally back into a big, single-in/dual-out cross-flow muffler. This car had none of the stock pieces intact - just look at this monstrosity.

Oh yeah, soak in the glory of the finest in redneck engineering mixed with at least a 12 pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer! Some knucklehead made a "true dual exhaust" for this V6 of fury and they CAPPED the factory Y-pipe and just ran it side by side. Two glasspack mufflers "mounted" under the car make for the melodious sounds and lead back to two giant 4" chrome tips, most likely bought from a truck stop. Woo-wee! Both over-the-axle tailpipes were crimped horribly and had smashed into the panhard rod and axle in multiple places, almost completely flat at one spot. The reason I think this exhaust work was done by a "real muffler shop" is that they actually put two new catalytic convertors in place, so it would be emissions legal. Somebody probably paid $500 or more for this exhaust eyesore!

Oh HELL no - we cut all of that sh!t clean off. We will figure out a used stock exhaust replacement solution later, but I will be damned if I am going to drive one inch with that ground dragging mess under there. I won't get into the embarrassing details of how we had to cut the pipes off, because I only brought one carbide cutoff wheel for the die grinder (hacksaw), but after a lot of elbow grease this pile of scrap was on the garage floor. The exhaust mounts.... oh it hurts to think about it... the mounts were all homemade looking and more than half had failed. One of the mounts was WELDED to the brake line bracket in the rear and had ripped free, bending the brake hard lines in the process. One entire side of the exhaust had been dragging the ground for what looked like months of street use. The glasspack on that side was half worn away. This car must have been a thing to see when it last ran - trailing half the exhaust and sparks flying! And if you saw some of the hand written titles on the homemade rap CDs we found in the car, which contain words I will not repeat, you would understand what an epic redneck owned this wreck previously. Trust me - not everyone from Texas wears a ten gallon hat, rides a horse, or make cars like this.

With most of the custom exhaust cut off behind the two cats and a trickle of fresh fuel in the tank, we again attempted a test fire. The engine would crank like a fiend, but it still wouldn't fire. I wasn't hearing the fuel pump relay or the pump running at Key On, so I had them stop after a few brief tries. Some more Key On tests revealed that the fuel pump wasn't making a peep. We had pretty much figured the fuel pump and in-tank pick-up would be full of varnish and gunk, so we started on fuel pump extraction to take a closer look and at least replace the fuel sock.

Pulling the fuel tank out of a 3rd or 4th gen F-Body is a bit of a chore because the entire rear-end has to come out. I didn't have a telescoping transmission jack at the shop to hold it up, so we went with the easier way to change the fuel pump in an F-body, which I have done in the past. You cut an access hole in the trunk floor and remove it from above.

First step was removing the panhard brace, but leaving the axle in place. Then we removed the two fuel tank strap bolts and let the tank come down about four inches, giving us room to cut above it without snagging a fuel line. We went to the interwebs to find the correct location to cut the trunk floor for access to the pump and marked the square hole. After 5 minutes with the cut off wheel, we looked and nope, that was all wrong. The location we could see for the fuel pump on this V6 fuel tank was way different than the V8 fuel tank McCall and I had worked on in the past. Must be a different tank on these cars? The online pictures of the V6 fuel pump assembly looks very different than the V8 unit we had from the 2000 Camaro.

So we looked under the hole we cut, marked it further back, and cut some more. That looks right! Before we removed any of the lines, we blasted the funky dust covered area with compressed air and got it reasonably clean. Then the factory quick connect lines came off and we... hmm, didn't bring a brass drift to whack the steel retainer ring with. Not having all of my shop tools at home was making this all take a lot longer than normal. We reconnected the lines and blew out the fuel vapors and tried to use a screw driver, nope. Gonna need a brass drift and a real hammer. Oh well, it was our 4 pm cut off for the day (McCall had to head home, I needed to head to the shop to meet a customer, and Paul had to go), so we put the car back in the air and reloaded all of my cars back in there for the day.

What Next?

The driver's door is still missing the door latch assembly. I thought we had a found a cheap replacement door latch for the driver's side from Dorman, but it was the passenger latch. The driver's side is only available from the dealer for $94, so off to the junk yards we go for that. We think we can repair the front crossover and Y-pipe section and will look for a cheap stock exhaust to put back in place of the glasspack special. Thanks to some friendly folks on Corner-Carvers, we are buried in good wheel deals, with some C4 sawblades coming our way soon. Still no luck on the bumper cover, but we're not too worried about that.

Once we go back and get the fuel pump assembly out, we will see what needs to be fixed/replaced and get it back in, then see if the thing will start. If and when it does start, we will dig deeper. I'm pushing to have it running and on track for a test by November 17th, but we will see.


Last edited by Fair!; 11-06-2012 at 02:38 PM.
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Unread 10-14-2012, 03:08 PM
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Default Re: Vorshlag ChumpCar '98 Firebird V6 Project

Project Update for Oct 14, 2012: Jason, Paul and I met for only a few hours Saturday morning but we checked off many things on our ChumpCar Firebird prep list, including one major milestone - firing up the engine and driving the car! That step let us know this car didn't have a bum engine and this somewhat risky purchase wasn't a bad idea. Let me rephrase - any $500 wheel to wheel race car plan is always going to be a "bad idea", but ignoring that, this particular $500 Firebird purchase wasn't an absolutely bone-headed buy.

Factory Fuel Fiasco Fixed

So we were relatively sure that the original fuel pump in the car wasn't working. In our last post, when we had battery power restored and all of the other electrical systems seemed to work, we would go to Key On - when an EFI pump should run briefly to charge the fuel lines - and we heard no fuel pump noises. We didn't check the fuel pump relay at the time, but since the car had been sitting for close to 2 years we were pretty sure the old fuel in the tank would have turned to mush and possibly clogged the fuel pick-up and/or ruined the pump. Turns out we were right - the old pump was kaput.

I brought proper brass drift from the shop to my garage and Saturday, after a good bit of hammering by all 3 of us, we managed to get the steel retention ring to rotate and the old fuel pump assembly could finally come out. Safety tip: always strike anything steel with a non-sparking metal like brass if you are working near gasoline fumes. Steel on steel = spark, and spark = boom!

Once that ring came loose and the pump assembly came out we could see two things: first was the funk nasty residue and rust on the old fuel level sender and fuel pump housing, second was the funk nasty fuel inside the tank. After a little prodding we noticed a black pool of oil sitting right on top of the fuel, and the entire mixture smelled "off". And then when the old fuel pump assembly was laid on the bench, a 3" length of the pressure side hose coming out of the pump just fell off - so even if the pump had worked the pressured fuel would have never left the tank.

We were prepared with plans and parts to fix both issues, luckily. After a looking online we had found that a brand new replacement fuel pump assembly for this car is around $300, and none of us liked that. We still weren't sure that the motor was even going to start, and if it did, if it would have oil pressure or a blown head gasket, or if the trans was busted or whatever. A lot of unknowns to go and drop another $300 on a new fuel pump replacement (fully 60% of what we paid for the car!) to then find out the motor or something else major was toast. We were still not into this car for much money at this point, so if the motor was hosed we would cut our losses and find another candidate.

Luckily we got a free donation of a used fuel pump assembly (pick-up, pump and level sender) from Ryan's 2000 Camaro LS1 he just purchased. Not that it matters for the Chump budget, as we can buy replacement OEM parts for pretty much anything this side of a "new motor". Ryan's recent Camaro purchase came with what appeared to be a well used original fuel pump + sender assembly. We still didn't know if that was good or bad, but it was worth testing and it looked almost the same as the V6 unit (the LS1 unit had a fuel pressure regulator inside the assembly while the V6 car had it's regulator under the hood). This used pump simply saved us $300 to find out more, if it would fit and function the same.

We looked at the fuel tank itself and decided to drain it from the top, to let us avoid dropping the entire axle assembly out of the car to let the tank drop out and roll over to be drained in the normal manner. We bought a $5 pull-action suction pump (no, it was NOT a Swedish p3nis pump - "That's not my bag, baby!") and pulled the fuel and oily gunk out from the top side fuel pump opening. With a slightly longer suction hose Jason and Paul were able to get almost every drop out of the tank, one half quart at a time - luckily it only had 3 gallons inside. Then using some blue shop towels Jason mopped up the rest of the gunk and got the tank virtually spotless inside. Sure, there would be some old fuel in the lines but we hoped that wouldn't account for much. We bought $3 worth of "fuel system treatment" that would go in with 5 gallons of fresh 93 octane to hopefully put any water or other gunk in suspension.

Once the tank was empty it was time to test the used 2000 Camaro pump. We simply let it hang out in the trunk then connected it to the the OEM Firebird wiring and turned the key for 2 seconds and WHIRRRR! It made noises, and the people rejoiced. It was a small victory but it let us know that the fuel pump wiring was good and that the old pump was indeed dead, in addition to having no hosed connection to the lines outside of the tank. We could also see the fuel tank level sender on this unit working. During a lunch break we ran by two local auto parts stores looking for a replacement in-tank fuel sock or "pre-filter", to replace the old brown unit from the 2000 Camaro pump assembly. O'Reily wanted $35 and Autozone wanted $22, and neither store had one in stock. "Screw that noise" was the general consensus; Until we knew if the motor or trans were any good we were not spending any more money on this risky bet.

With the 2000 Camaro pump successfully tested we installed the used assembly back into the Firebird's fuel tank, making sure the (cleaned up and re-used) rubber tank seal was seated. Then more hammering on the retention ring, which took a good bit of time. Might need to open up our "access rectangle" a bit more because with as narrow as the opening is we couldn't get a good blow with the drift on the ring except in one place. Doing this in the pits during a race would be a nightmare. Once the pump was secured and all 3 lines were hooked up (pressure, return, vent) we carefully poured in 5 gallons of fresh 93 octane.

Something was seriously amiss in the refueling system, as it took more than 5 minutes to get a paltry 5 gallons into the tank without the fill tube backing up and puking out fuel. We think it is either a bad tank vent or something along those lines. We fished a coat hanger down the fuel filler neck all the way into the tank, so it wasn't an obvious blockage in the neck. We did note a burned/smashed vent line coming out of the tank previously (see above). We will cut out this plastic vent line section and replace it and test refilling again next time. We also found more spring spacers inside the front coil springs this weekend, so those need to be removed. Free lowering FTW!

First Test Fire

All of the OEM interior was in a landfill somewhere so Jason needed a place to sit. I scrounged around my garage and found a low, folding beach chair that fit inside the chassis perfectly. I looked over the chair for an FIA decal but came up short. He hopped in and was sitting at about the right height for a test drive, too.

After the car was fueled and the pump was replaced with a working unit Jason hopped in and turned the key on and off several times, listening for fuel pressure.

First fire test video, and yes, it makes car-like noises!

After about 8 cycles the fuel system was charged and he turned the key. After a few seconds cranking it went VROOM! It ran a little rough for a few seconds but cleared out and sounded like it was firing on at least 5 of the 6 cylinders. The exhaust sounds like ass because we cut off the glasspacks and tail pipes that were dragging the ground. The exhaust is coming from the exhaust manifolds into two aftermarket catalysts and then just cut from there. He ran it for a few seconds then shut it off and we took a look for leaks; No new puddles.

Time For A Test Drive

So after we checked the car over for another few seconds, all agreed that the beach chair seating was sufficiently dangerous and dropped the car down off the lift. Jason strapped in.... errr.... sat in the chair and fired it back up. Then he put it in reverse, we crossed our fingers, and he pulled out of my garage...

McCall took a short ~5 minute test drive around my neighborhood (oh they really love me now) but it told us several things. The engine made good oil pressure, didn't overheat, and it drove pretty well. The brakes work, the clutch is functional, and the transmission shifts through all 5 gears. We were relieved and excited at the same time. This risky purchase may have panned out, woo! The MayPop tires held air, surprisingly, but we didn't want to risk any hooning or burnouts with open exhaust, as the Chief of Police is my next door neighbor.

What's Next?

After Jason got back from the test drive we put the car back up the lift and slapped high fives all around. We had only spent about 3 hours but felt much more confident about this car than ever before. Paul had an afternoon event he had to get to so he took off. McCall and I came up with a Punch List of items that needed to happen to meet the Nov 17th ECR track event (see this FB link) to test the car. Could be a short day if something went wrong, and it likely would, but we're hoping to get in some test laps in. What does the car need? Here is a shortened version of our punch list.

Wheels and tires are a big one. The factory 16x7" wheels have dry-rotted May-Pops mounted that are barely good enough to roll around on. I found a deal on some old school Enkei 3-piece 17x9.5" wheels made for this chassis, less than $50 per corner. Thanks for the hook-up go to LeMons/Chump racer John Rawson! I really just wanted some C4 Corvette sawblades but these are pretty pimp and period correct. JDM, yo!

These do look pretty fancy but they are kind of old and aged, so we might get by with using them. I still think cheap C4 wheels are more legit for Chump and we might make these Enkies our "pimp wheels" that are only used for TV interviews, high end car shows, and ... oh who am I kidding??

We don't have any 17" tires to test with at the moment so we'll pony up for a new set of 265/40/17 Dunlops Direzza Star Specs very soon. That's a chunk of change but these 200 treadwear tires are becoming the go-to tire for CrapCan racing and a fresh set of these (a hair under $800) will be part of each event's budget. Still need to track down a driver's side door latch, a stock V6 F-body exhaust Y-pipe, and a '98-02 Firebird front bumper cover. We have a lead on an F-body junk yard in town, if the guy would just answer his phone or e-mails. Need to mount Paul's Ultra-Shield aluminum seat, make some inserts for all 3 drivers, fabricate a harness bar and mount one of Paul's spare 6-point 3" Sparco harnesses with clip-in rings. Order some brake pads and flush the brake system with new fluid. Make some headlight covers (scrap metal) and a cover for the fuel pump access (also scrap). Replace the OEM fuel filter, OEM air filter in the stock housing, and the smashed windshield. Slap in some new OEM replacement spark plugs, plug wires and a serpentine belt. Make sure the A/C works (we forgot to test that), then rip all of the sh!t out. Flush the cooling system, replace everything with some high quality H2O (Waterboy quote). Make some numbers and ChumpCar graphics!

That's not hardly enough preparation to race W2W, of course, but it might be enough to loaf around ECR in an HPDE group in November to see if the car has any track potential. So that is a sizable list and we have our work cut out for us over the next 4 weeks, but the only real money is the set of tires. I want to wash out the funk-ified interior this week, with some bleach and soapy water. I think we have killed all of the creepy-crawlers but there's plenty of mud/gunk still in there. Everything on the car could still fall apart and catch fire on the first lap, so we're keep the expectations LOW for the first outing. Once I see some lap times in this thing semi-prepped then I will know if we can be halfway competitive. I'm hoping for 2:12 laps but expecting slower than 2:15 on the first outing.

(continued below)

Last edited by Fair!; 11-06-2012 at 02:38 PM.
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Default Re: Vorshlag ChumpCar '98 Firebird V6 Project

(continued from above)

A Word About Rules and Spending

The rules for spending in the "$500" ChumpCar serious are just as convoluted and strange as they were for the $20XX GRM Challenge. Lots of exceptions are made for safety, brakes, tires, and even OEM part replacements. I don't even pretend to know all of the loopholes and tricks, just what I can read.

One thing that sets this series apart from LeMons is that Chump uses an "Average Internet Value" for the car and individual "Minimum" set amounts for aftermarket performance upgrades. You have to provide so many eBay or CraigsList ads for similar cars from 4 regions of the country, and we think our car should be right in the $500 AIV ballpark. Beyond that we are keeping it 100% stock, other than the allowed brake & tire upgrades. It is up to the ChumpCar tech crew to determine if we can get that $500 AIV, and we know with a 1998 model car this is risky - but we feel that the V6 Firebird is the opposite of an overdog and we think we will be OK.

We are replacing worn out OEM parts with new OEM parts - and that is also allowed, with some restrictions. Here are some excerpts from the ChumpCar rules about what can be replaced with what, and not incur a penalty:

The general consensus:

Of course, you have to have the rest of the car built to meet all safety rules. And, yes, you can cut the suspension springs (not replace them), replace the shocks with OEM-equivalent units (nothing better), freshen the engine to 100% stock, and/or upgrade the brakes within the “2X rule”… but that‟s it.
On OEM part replacements:

4.4.8. Parts Replacement and Post-Race Improvements Teams may replace any worn, broken, ventilated, impaled, defective or bent-beyond-all-recognition parts on their car without affecting the AIV of their vehicle so long as it's OEM part AND it's 100% stock. It can be new or it can be used. (Note – we’re talking PARTS here, not assemblies… like an engine or a transmission. E.g. - a brand new transmission will result in value-add.) Don't go for used hoses, gaskets, shocks, bearings or used spark plugs. We're not that anal. However, no aftermarket performance pieces (used or not), no OEM part that's been modified or upgraded in any way, and no upgraded OEM parts from a more desirable or better performance sports/luxury/upgrade model just because they bolt on to your car. Everything has to be OEM to the original make/model vehicle you race. Parts need to be 100% stock to qualify for the no-value-add rule. It would serve all teams well to keep your auto parts store and junkyard receipts. Operationally critical parts that do not fall into safety equipment exceptions may be replaced with new OEM or OEM-equivalent parts (NAPA, etc) if the parts on the car or used parts are not deemed acceptable for use. These items include radiators, master brake cylinders, master and slave clutch cylinders, shocks, wheel bearings, spark plugs, gaskets, seals, coolant hoses, water pumps, oil pumps, filters, fluids, radiator caps, ignition and accessory switches, and batteries. If it‟s not in that list but you think it should be, contact ChumpCar officials before installing it or you‟ll probably be dinged for its value in inspection.
See what we mean? They don't expect us to show up and race with a split radiator hose, and they won't ding us if we replace the hose with a new OEM replacement from a parts chain. And we will do some of this simply for reliability.

These are some of the cheap, OEM replacement parts going on this car for some extra reliability - and we feel they are are 100% legal

And the rules on Safety/brake/tire upgrades:

4.7. Safety Equipment DOES NOT Count Toward $500 Total
4.7.1. Safety equipment described in Section 3 DOES NOT count toward the $500 total value; nor does any theme or engineering addition. In addition to those safety items and processes listed in Section 3, the following are considered safety-related and therefore exempt: Tires: Tire selection is open, so long as the tire is DOT legal and the treadwear is rated at 190 or higher. Wheels, brake calipers, brake rotors, brake pads, brake lines, u-joints and ball joints are open PROVIDED all competitors maintain the “2X Rule” --- that is, the retail price of NEW replacement components shall be within 100% (two times) the cost of NEW OEM equipment, as quoted by the dealer or, when dealer pricing is not available, based on an average price as quoted by three nationally recognized auto parts retail chains (i.e. - Napa, CSK, Pep Boys, O'Reilly, AutoZone, etc.). Driver comfort & information items are open and do not count towards the $500 value (i.e. - steering wheel, removable steering wheel adapter, shifter, gauges, pedals, cool suits, vents, heaters, radio communications, etc.) All fuel hoses, fuel fittings, fuel filters, and related mounts are open and do not count towards the $500 value All fuel-system components upstream of the fuel pump, including tanks/cells, mounts, fillers, vents, etc. are open and do not count towards the $500 value (NOTE: Fuel pumps, carburetors, injection pumps, computers, and individual injectors are NOT exempt from the $500 limit. Basically, things downstream from the pump count towards value.)
4.7.4. Exhaust systems downstream of the header/exhaust manifold (from the collector back) are open and do not count towards the $500 value. Performance headers are NOT exempt and are NOT included in this ruling, as are turbo-chargers and related performance components.
4.7.5. Windshields and wipers are open and do not count towards the $500 value. Stock windshields, true Lexan, or circle-track mesh are acceptable; non-Lexan plastic is not acceptable.
That last bit of rules can allow for better brake pads, wider tires, nicer/safer plumbing and fittings, even different wheels. Just read the rules before you armchair quarterback every expenditure we show here - but if you know the rules and see us making a mistake, please do speak up. I know putting this up publicly opens up this ChumpCar build to more scrutiny than most, but I'm used to that. We pulled it off cleanly with the $2011 GRM Challenge car and we plan to do this build open, fair, and above board - but the car will be clean, reliable as we can make it, and otherwise pretty stock. It might also be but slow or turn into a horrendous fireball. We shall see.

Check back for future updates.

Last edited by Fair!; 11-06-2012 at 02:38 PM.
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Default Re: Vorshlag ChumpCar '98 Firebird V6 Project

Project Update for October 22, 2012: Just a quick update covering some work we did last weekend, with a new volunteer lending a hand. The two other key team members were busy, so local Miata racer Nathan W. joined me for a parts run and a little bit of work on the Firebird. He was on our endurance karting team last year and works in the building next to Vorshlag.

Last week McCall had found a good resource for '96-02 V6 Camaro/Firebird parts on Craigslist, so I arranged a time to meet the guy on Saturday. It was an hour each way and for this particular area I needed... backup, so a local racer and friend of Vorshlag agreed to go with me to check it out. This was a guy's house who had 10+ V6 4th gens in his back yard, so I was a bit leery. Turned out the guy was super knowledgeable, helpful, organized and sold us some spare and needed OEM parts at great prices.

As with any endurance car, it always makes sense to have spares for just about anything you could quickly replace, especially when these parts are heavily taxed in track use. I've seen CrapCan racers bring everything from spare struts, shocks, rotors, loaded calipers, to electronics, fuel pumps, clutches, transmissions, engines, and even entire spare cars. I don't think we'll get that extreme but we need to have the obvious spares on hand.

When we went to the Craigslist guy's place, we picked up a lot of cheap V6 4th gen spares, including: a complete fuel pump assembly, driveshaft, two extra front calipers, and a freakin' door latch assembly. Remember, this car had seen some theft damage, including a busted door lock and a stolen door latch on the driver's door. We have been strapping the left side door closed with a ratchet strap, so getting a working door latch was high on my list of accomplishments for the weekend.

Just seeing the door close and latch... fixing that made me much happier than it should have. Removing the latch from one of this guy's donor cars was a breeze, as was the reinstallation. While Nathan and I took the latch off a busted 4th gen, Junkyard Superman removed a stock 4th gen fuel pump assembly in less than two minutes. While smoking. Over an open fuel tank. I didn't watch him do it, but before he started I did see that it was fully installed. It was totally removed in less time than it took to unbolt three Torx screws on the door latch. When all you deal in is V6 4th gens, you get pretty good at this stuff, I guess? I was too embarrassed to admit that we spent close to 3 hours removing and replacing one in the same car, heh.

The two-piece driveshaft in this Firebird is wobbly and worn, but now we have a cheap, well used one-piece unit from a '99-02 V6 car as the spare. Apparently GM elected to go with a two-piece driveshaft through '98 on the V6 cars, but switched to the simpler, cheaper one-piece design some time in the '99 model year? We paid tens of dollars for the whole assembly, so we will have a good spare when we need it.

We came back from our 2.5 hour journey into the odd 4th gen V6 junkyard nirvana and put the door latch on first. I had brought a few tools from VM HQ to my house, but of course was poorly equipped. We fought with the hacked-up manifold down-pipes, but I forgot wrenches so we couldn't get them off. Tool fail! The lone remaining flapping and ripped fender liner was removed and the fuel tank got $5 worth of Lucas fuel system cleaner. Hopefully that "magic elixir", plus a new fuel filter will help to further de-funk the fuel system.

Exhaust Planz

Remember back a few posts ago, the picture of the "modified" downpipe assembly? They had taken a perfectly functional factory Y-pipe and crossover and made it into "true dual exhaust hooptiness".

I cannot and will not let that stay, so we got a replacement OEM 3.8L V6 4th gen Y-pipe and will bolt that on shortly. I will fabricate a custom exhaust system from this new OEM Y-pipe back with some 3" dia. tubing, a 3" chambered muffler, and a turn-down before the axle. Nothing exotic or fancy, but nothing used. Remember the rules discussion from my last post - anything behind the factory exhaust manifolds is free with regards to budget. This will be light, will package well, and should be easy to fabricate. A side-exit exhaust will be a ground clearance problem and/or more work to fabricate.

Need Help Finding Parts

We don't have the time or want to risk the cost on this car to build a cage for it before our HPDE test day on November 17th. Instead we're trying to find a bolt-in harness bar like the unit shown below.

That is an old LG Motorsports 4th gen harness bar that attaches to the rear seat-belt anchors. Finding one of these for the very short term would be a great short-cut to mounting shoulder harnesses for the HPDE test day. No, I don't think these are remotely as safe as a roll bar, but we don't have time to cage the car for one track event. We're willing to take that risk. Once we see the lap times at ECR with 90% of the suspension/brake/preparation accomplished, we will know the potential of the car and will pop the $$$ for the cage.

So if you have a line on one of these LG Motorsports 4th gen F-body harness bars, please PM me. Thanks!

The other thing we still need to find is a front bumper cover from a '98-02 Firebird or TransAm. We struck out completely with the Craigslist 4th gen guy. He had a '93-97 Firebird nose that was pretty beat up, but these have different hood and fender shapes. Then I looked at a ripped-to-shreds '98-02 Camaro bumper cover, but it also has a different hood shape, not to mention it was torn badly. That one was $10 so I almost took a chance, but I might as well have lit a match to a ten dollar bill for all the good it would have done us.

Once we have the front bumper cover I can get the car looking like a car again, then I might be brave enough to drive it from my house to the shop to do the exhaust work, make a seat bracket for Paul's racing seat, and wrap up one or two other things that I need the welder for.

Last night Paul brought by the seat we are going to try to use, an UltraShield aluminum RallySport seat, with a slider. The slider is made for another car so we will likely make another - but Chump rules limits sliders to 3" of total travel, so this might not be worth doing. Might just bolt it in place for now (and attach to the cage structure when it is installed) and use an insert for the height (and width) differences between drivers. This seat might not make it past the HPDE stage, though, as we would all like to use a better, FIA approved, halo style seat with some lateral head restraint. Also, our a set of 17x9.5" C4 Corvette sawblade wheels should arrive tomorrow. Can't wait to get them on the car!

More soon,

Last edited by Fair!; 11-06-2012 at 02:37 PM.
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Default Re: Vorshlag ChumpCar '98 Firebird V6 Project

Project Update for Nov 6, 2012: A lot has happened behind the scenes on this 4th gen Firebird project. There was a little game of musical chairs or hot potato, where somehow now I am the Team Captain/car owner. So you will notice the change in the thread title, and the Vorshlag logo on pictures from this point on...

After reading a rather positive article in a recent issue of Automobile magazine, which focused a lot about ChumpCar and Lemons racers coming from professional race teams like Riley and many NASCAR/Cup teams, I am no longer worried about "tainting" our company name by putting it on a $500 CrapCan race car. We aren't even a professional race team, just a motorsports manufacturer/vendor and race preparation shop, so who cares? And I shouldn't have ever been worried, as we did this for two years in another CrapCan series, the GRM $20XX Challenge. I had my worries and fears there but after seeing the event and other racers first hand, and the positive reaction by customers and fans from our build there, I quickly lost my concerns. And at least with this series we can work on the car in our shop, with our employees wrenching, without the restrictions that GRM Challenge had on pro vs volunteer work. A lot of the work will still be done after hours by the original crew of Magyar, McCall, and I though.

Bumper Cover and Wheels

I found a set of C4 Corvette wheels cheap on Corner-Carvers ($150 with tires!), and they arrived about a week or so ago. The tires were even good enough to do some laps on at ECR, mounted with 275/40/17 Firehawk SZ50 tires, 220 treadwear. The tires were free, so of course they have seen better days, but we'll put in a few laps on them just to get a good idea of where we are on lap times.

Magyar and I worked at my house last Thursday night to mount the C4 wheels - should be 5 minutes of work, right? Ha! I wish. Getting the stock 16x7" alloy wheels off the car took a LOT of torque on the impact gun. We had to spray some of the studs with WD40 and let them soak to get a few lug nuts off. The studs are all rusty and the hubs were worse. The rear wheels bolted on but at full droop the inside of the rear tires hit the mounting platform for the chassis-to-axle bump stop mounts. Hmm, we will tweak the mounts or add some wheel spacers. The front wheels, however, wouldn't bolt on...

With a little effort we finally got the wheels to sit on the hubs, but they were still not fully seated. The rust was so thick on the hubs that they were over-sized. The old lug nuts were rusted to crap, so we tossed them in the trash and replaced them with some new Vorshlag M12-1.5 lug nuts with a 17mm hex and a little dab of anti-seize. The wheels were put on and threaded a little bit, but the fit was terrible. We are going to have to get some new hubs on the car and try this again at the shop.

Paul and I loaded the Firebird into the trailer and on Friday we unloaded the car at the Vorshlag shop once again.

Bumper cover off, then finally in place. We will make sheet metal covers for the old pop-up headlight covers.

On Saturday we had ideal weather so Magyar and I worked on fitting the replacement bumper cover to the car, along with some help from my engine builder and friend Erik Koenig. So a week earlier McCall had found a CraigsList ad for a '98-02 Firebird bumper cover, hood and one Trans Am side skirt for $150, which was a far cheaper price than decent bumper covers alone. The cover has a tear in it, and it is silver instead of white, but it worked perfectly and really cleaned up the look of the car. That missing bumper cover made the car look like a big mess. We had to rivet the retaining plates to one end but it went on without too much fuss. The spare (black) hood will be here in case/when we need it, and the side skirt can be re-sold to another 4th gen owner in need.

Some Prep Work At Vorshlag

Left: The interior was pretty nasty even under the OEM carpets. Right: After two hours of scrubbing it cleaned up!

After McCall, Magyar and I cleaned the top side, under chassis, and under hood areas, the last bit of funk left was the interior. We had removed the hobo hideout interior, but the floor pan and trunk area were still pretty funky. One of my guys here at the shop spent a good two hours scrubbing the interior sheet metal and washing out the funk, with about 8 drain plugs pulled so that the water wouldn't stand in there. Looks like there was already some standing water surface rust, but it is merely cosmetic and there is zero rot on this chassis - just like pretty much any Texas car we see. We also got the last of the green mold from the door jambs, trunk and under the side door trim on the outside. Cleaned up nicely!

A new mechanic that is starting with us (Olaf) worked under the hood today, changing the spark plugs, plug wires, and serpentine belt with some cheap OEM replacement parts. The car was running terribly of late - felt like maybe 4 or 5 cylinders were hitting - so I hope this and the new O2 sensors can help fix that miss. Yeah, when the Y-pipe came out we noticed one of the front O2 sensors was melted and ruined, so the forward two sensors will get replaced soon with OEM parts (Bosch).

Another repair underway here at the shop is the removal of the custom "dual exhaust" crossover pipes and in its place goes the used, OEM replacement Y-pipe and crossover. Instead of using a factory catalyst in the stock location (under the passenger seat) we are instead placing a big 3" Flowmaster three chamber muffler in the same spot. Driving the car with open exhaust has been LOUD, but this 15.5 pound stainless 3" muffler should be nice and quiet. The case length is almost 20" and it is heavy gauge 409 stainless, so it should last a long time. The rest of the exhaust will follow the transmission tunnel and dump behind the rear seat area. And remember - none of the exhaust behind the factory manifolds counts towards our $500 AIV budget. So why not make it quality, quiet, light and reliable?

Our fabricator extraordinaire Ryan will build the rest of the system this week. He is also going to fabricate the seat bracket to adapt the Sparco Dual Locking Slider to the UltraShield racing seat. We just ordered an OEM replacement fuel filter, air filter, and upstream O2 sensors (to replace the melted ones). I will post up again soon when the exhaust and seat are installed.

UltraShield seat mocked-up in place. Brackets being built next.

So at the end of the day here Magyar and I weighed the car as it sits now. The race seat is sitting in place, and the Flowmaster muffler is sitting where it should be, but on the passenger floor. It has five gallons of fuel, but it was still much heavier than I had hoped...

The Firebird sitting on the scales for the first time...

2998 pounds!? I had guessed almost 100 pounds lighter in its current state - wishful thinking. Oh well, "it is what it is". Now we know where we are at and there is a good bit of weight left to pull out. This is good because there's at least 100 pounds of roll cage and safety gear left to go in before it is safe enough for W2W. We have less than two weeks until the ECR track day on Nov. 17th - lots of little parts are inbound, and we have a lot of little jobs to complete.

More soon...

Last edited by Fair!; 11-06-2012 at 07:59 PM.
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Default Re: Vorshlag ChumpCar '98 Firebird V6 Project

Hmm, I am surprised about the 60% front weight...

Do you need headlights for some of the races that might run into the dark?

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Default Re: Vorshlag ChumpCar '98 Firebird V6 Project

Is it just the photo, or is the front caster really whack? Wheels seem offset to the rear and not centered in the opening. Is the sub-frame bent?
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Default Re: Vorshlag ChumpCar '98 Firebird V6 Project

Update for November 24, 2012: It has been about 3 weeks since my last post and we have been busy on other projects, but the Firebird got some parts and attention as well. We didn't take the Firebird to the ECR track day on Nov 17th, as we had our hands full with our 2011 Mustang and Matt's 2013 BRZ, so we are shooting for the ECR "Toy Run" event on Dec 8th instead. The day before that, most of Vorshlag is going to Austin to drive Cadillacs around the new F1 track. So Friday afternoon we'll finish the COTA driving event, haul ass back up to Dallas, and load up the various cars for the track ECR day on Saturday. Busy weekends never seem to end, even in the "off season".

There's been yet another ownership change - this car is a hot potato! My wife Amy hated the idea of Vorshlag taking over the Crapcan build, so we worked out an even split among the 3 principle team members (McCall, Magyar and me), and now it is no longer a "Vorshlag project" once again. Which is fine with me - I just want to drive the damned car, and don't really care who owns what.

I worked late one night last week and bolted in this LG Motorsports 4th gen F-body harness bar. McCall had used one of these for HPDE events more than a decade ago and and Luis at LG found a brand new one buried in the back of their shop and loaned it to us - thanks, Luis! We'll use this just for the HPDE testing, before we tackle the roll cage. Again - to minimize dollar risk up front, we are waiting for the first HPDE test's lap times and looking at the general performance of the car there, before we dive in to the really spendy safety bits (like the cage, fire system, etc). The harness bar fits great and will be a fine place to hang the shoulder harnesses from. Of course a roll cage is safer, but this is temporary and will never be used in any W2W use (not that anyone would be fool enough to let us).

New Possible Name: Swamp Thing

We got brand new replacement rotors front & rear for $85 total - that's cheap for 12" bits!

Paul and I worked on the ChumpCar Firebird over the 4 day holiday weekend and got a little bit more knocked out. We had been acquiring a lot of OEM parts to replace wear items and picked up some cheap rotors, really cheap semi-metallic brake pads ($45 for front and rear!), front hub assemblies, and some caliper rebuild kits. We wanted to get the brakes refreshed on Friday and we did.

This car is unusually rusty and filthy underneath, especially for a Texas car - we usually don't see a spot of rust on anything, other than a little surface rust on bare steel/iron items like brake rotors. The front and rear hubs, rotors, control arms and such are all really crusty. It was like maybe this car was owned by Swamp People that drove through the bogs on a daily basis, and maybe parked it in standing water. It does have a "flood damage title", so maybe it spent some time at the bottom of a lake? I dunno - but the hubs were so rusty we had trouble removing the stock wheels, and the crust was so thick that the C4 Corvette wheels wouldn't even bolt on. The old front wheel hubs didn't match side to side, either, as one had different style wheel studs than the other. Instead of spending time cleaning up the rust from the front hubs' wheel mounting surface we just got OEM replacements - so for $53 (each) the entire front hub assemblies are brand new, and a matched pair once again.

At this point I was already covered in brake fluid, and so was Paul

Next we moved onto the front caliper rebuilds. This was filthy, nasty work and I regretted not just buying rebuilt calipers instead - but this saved us hundreds of dollars and was more in the spirit of ChumpCar, so Paul and I rebuilt the twin piston PBR front OEM calipers. Yes, this car has pretty good stock brakes, the same as the '98-02 LS1 V8 F-bodies. The rebuild kits for all 6 corners was $23, with an extra pair of front rebuild kits for the spare ($15) used front calipers we picked up from Joe Dirt. Took the better part of an hour to get all of the dust seals and caliper seals replaced, but I'm glad we did it. The caliper internals were full of filth muck, which we cleaned out thoroughly in the parts cleaner.

The pistons and bores cleaned up nicely and Paul eventually got them back together correctly (neither of us had rebuilt a caliper in 10 years, but it finally came back to us). Paul slapped the new rotors on and the O'Reily semi-metallic brake pads went in place (yes, we are being cheap for our HPDE outing, and we know they might not last 20 laps - but that's OK for the first test outing). After the first caliper was bolted on we ended up with extra parts (pad guide end plates) so we took it all apart and put it back together again, properly. Getting old sucks - and is why Paul or I are not mechanics anymore, and why I have two qualified techs that I pay to work on customer cars and our Vorshlag shop cars. They try to keep me out of the shop - for good reason!

Before we finished up the front we found the camber adjustment on the front lower control arm mounting hole, which is slotted from the factory. We loosened the 21mm bolt head and used a pry bar to rock the arm all the way outboard, which ended up with a whopping -1.4° front camber per side. Yea, that's not really enough, but slotting this hole a little more is both an easy and free mod, even by ChumpCar standards. We'll try to get it closer to -2.5° camber, which tends to work well on street tires. It is a proper "SLA" front suspension, so maybe it will not need that much static camber. It is something we will test at the track. Once we have the camber setting down we will either make bolt-in or weld-in slugs for the slotted holes - since those have a tendency to slip under heavy track use.

We moved to the back and removed the calipers and rotors. The rear E-brake system is a drum brake inside the rear rotor and it fought a worn down drum edge lip coming off, and a few pounds of mud and snail shells fell out of each drum assembly. This was owned by Swamp People, like I said. Who leased out the interior to hobos. Paul used compressed air and blasted out more mud and critters from inside the rear brake drum area. The whole shop was then full of Swamp Dust.

Once the caliper was off we made a judgement call and did not rebuild the rears yet. Laziness had a part in that, to be sure, but they looked fine. We had somehow gobbled up nearly 4 hours of futzing on the car and were also getting hungry. So the $20 rear brake pads went in (to match the $24 fronts - literally the cheapest pads O'Reily sold for this car), then the rear rotors, and back together it all went. I cleaned the hub mounting surface with a wire wheel on a die grinder, knocking the rust off the rear axles, and then the C4 wheels slid right on. We spent a solid 45 minutes flushing the old brake fluid out and bleeding the system with new, good, fresh brake fluid. We already had new Vorshlag lug nuts installed from the last round of work, so with some new anti-seize on the new front wheel studs we bolted up the wheels and set it down.

The spark plugs, wires and serpentine belt had been replaced already but we hadn't fired up the car in weeks. So as we were bleeding the brakes I fired it up - and shut it off quickly. It was running on maybe 3 cylinders. WTF? We took a look at the firing order and the plug wires were just mixed up. After a couple of minutes of tracing the wires from each plug to the distributor-less 3-coil-pack up top, we had it wired right and it fired up and ran perfectly. It really sounds great, except for the open exhaust. Can't wait to get the new muffler/system built. Need to work on the seat bracket and call a windshield guy. Lots to do before December 8th.

Thinking Ahead: Cooling?

For the Dec 8th test we're not doing anything crazy, just getting the car running in nearly stock form - with fresh OEM brake parts, new fluids, gutted interior, race seat + harness, and the C4 wheels and 275mm tires bolted on. The tires we have mounted were free and thus crap, but we should still get a number of laps in. I hope this gives us a rough idea of what it will run with fresh tires and better brake pads. From running two Lemons races at ECR in the past I know what the target lap times need to be, and if we're within ~4 seconds in this first outing we will know if we're on the right track.

What worries me for endurance racing in this car isn't the cornering grip or handling, nor the weight or horsepower, not even the lap times (yet), and definitely not the brakes. It is cooling. Keeping this car from overheating with the stock radiator and cooling parts is going to be tough.

So we're thinking outside the box a bit and might try to reverse duct the hood. You can see a little of what I'm talking about in the above picture. I am getting a little ahead of myself so we will talk more on this after the HPDE test.

That's all I have for now... will report back either just before or just after the Dec 8th test.
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Unread 12-06-2012, 07:34 PM
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Fair! Fair! is offline
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Default Re: Vorshlag ChumpCar '98 Firebird V6 Project

Project Update for December 6th, 2012: Well we have been hacking away at the ChumpCar Firebird for the past week and a half and we are accelerating the work to meet the Dec 8th ECR test date deadline. Not another track day for weeks, the weather is perfect, and this is the right track to test at (at least where I have the most first hand racing LeMons/Chump experience and lap times). Let's catch up to today...

Some "Easy" Suspension Work

Last weekend PaulM, McCall and I worked for about five hours on the suspension. We planned on lowering the front about 2", which would add more static negative camber, and the goal is -2.5 to -3°. We've used the stock lower control arm adjustment slot and it is at -1.4° now. The idea was to cut the front and rear springs and lower the car, then maybe work on slotting the upper A-arm mounts for more negative camber, if needed.

The rear was easy for Paul to try our first ride height iteration - just removing the giant rubber spring isolators should be good enough for about an inch of lowering. While the springs were out, we rated them on our digital spring rater and they came out to roughly 110 #/in, which is the exact same rate as stock 4th Gen F-body Z28 rear springs. Not a surprise, as they have the same spring tag part number.

While Paul was messing with the springs and I was rating them, McCall finally fixed the fuel tank vent tube problem, cutting out a section of melted plastic vent line and replacing it with a 90° piece of rubber hose. The piece of hose came from one of the many boxes of parts from the old E30 GRM Challenge car. All three of us spent hundreds of hours building that car, which was recently burned to a crisp in a transport fire Car-B-Que, that is talked about here on Jalopnik. Sad news for everyone, especially the new owner.

Former SCCA F Stock National champion autocrosser Casey Weiss brought by a gift basket full of free OEM 4th Gen parts, as he has switched from racing the old 4th Gen F-bodies (several of which he owned from 1993 until 2010) to the S197 Mustang Shelby GT. He has had a gaggle of parts gathering dust in his attic for years and was glad to drop them off, hoping we could use them in the Firebird. Brake pads, brackets, and all sorts of stuff. One of the pieces he had was a new front sway bar mounting bracket, which bolts to the front frame horn. They get bent when a cloghead wrecker tows a car using the sway bar as a yanking point, like the right front piece is above. We only found one, but it was new and exactly the same, so McCall bolted that on and now the front sway bar is mostly straight.

Another of the parts from the Weiss treasure trove was this little auxiliary battery bracket that some other 4th Gen racer made and gave him eons ago. That's a piece of aluminum strap bent to fit perfectly over an OEM sized battery (which we have). It first bolts to the normal, lower "plastic clamping block" and loops over the top of the battery and bolts to an unused hole in the radiator support. Instant double-secure over-the-top battery mount, which I'm sure tech inspectors love to see. I slapped a piece of rubber in there to prevent abrasion to the case and we were good to go.

At this point "the easy stuff" pretty much ended...

Front Struts Sh!t The Bed

The Plan at this point was to pull the front "struts" (yes, I know they are technically coilover shocks, but they look more like a strut, and everyone calls the front shocks "struts", even if that is inaccurate), then cut the springs and put them back on. Easy, right? Well to get the springs off you have to compress them, remove the strut top nut, then the top isolator, then the upper strut mount, then you can remove the spring to cut it. But like on so many other 4th Gens we've worked on in the past, nothing went according to plan.

We were once again screwed by the Swamp People that owned this car previously. Lots of rust on the upper control arm assembly and of course the top of the strut was all rusted and the top nut seized. GM's original design was prone to rusting this top nut on, as it captures and holds water and dirt, and usually these are seized on. But normally you can cut off the top nut, very carefully, and salvage the strut & upper strut mount. We also finally found where the ant colony was living, right there in the recess of a front strut mount. It's hard to see in the picture above, but it was crawling with live ants. Which we then plastered with brake cleaner, soaked everything in WD40 and PB Blaster, and anything else we could find to help un-stick the top nuts.

No luck. The top nuts were seized solid. I spent about an hour cutting into the meat of the nut, on opposite sides, then knocking them off. Managed to not destroy the threads on the upper strut stems, because I have done this crappy type of job too many times in the past. With the nut off, we tried to pull the upper spring perch/upper strut mount off. UHHHHHHGGGG!! ...the hell? Won't come off. There's still a bit of spring preload on them, so while the strut assembly was still secure in the spring compressor and the spring contained, I started tapping the strut mount upwards with a small hammer. Then I started swinging that hammer. Then I got the "Do More" (5 pound sledge). Not even budging.

Paul and McCall took the first strut and set it up in the 30K ton hydraulic air/hydraulic press and let her rip, while I started on the 2nd strut nut removal surgery. I watched them a bit once they got it secured in there and... whoa... the whole top mount was deforming 4-5 inches, then.... POW! BANG! The strut shoots out the bottom of the mount, the spring went clanging harmlessly across the floor, and it was finally apart. But this process ripped the strut mount to shreds, as a steel sleeve normally bonded into the rubber mount was now seized solid to the strut shaft. WTF?! At this point we tested the OEM struts and realized they were ruined, as they had no gas pressure left (factory deCarbons should have "gas under high pressure"), so we punted on the surgical removal of the steel sleeves. After five hours into that Sunday "Chumpwerks" session, we were out of parts, out of beer and out of patience.

Monday we ordered a pair of new front struts. The cheapest struts we could find were $53 each from Monroe. Then a pair of $31/each replacement OEM strut mounts (above right), plus $4 each for the "top nut isolators". This was supposed to be a free "just cut the springs!" mod, but turned into a $175 clusterf*ck. Sheesh.

More Race Preparation

With the struts ruined, that meant that the damned Firebird was stuck on a lift here at Vorshlag Monday morning, so our shop guys Olof and Ryan attacked the remaining punch list race preparation items on the Chumpcar in waves, between other customer work, work on the 2013 Mustang GT, and work on one of my other cars. Olof started on the sliding seat bracket and harness anchor install. You can see part of the tubular steel frame made here, which bolts to the four factory seat mounting holes, has new holes for the Sparco slider to bolt to, then a cross bar for the two anti-submarine belts. A Sparco 6-point cam-lock harness with clip-in ends mounts to anchors in the sub crossbar, two floor anchors, and the shoulder harnesses wrap around the harness bar.

The Sparco dual-locking slider works great, the UltraShield "big boy" seat (it is freagin' HUGE) is mounted low and centered with the wheel. While belted in place, I have inches of headroom to the non T-top roof, which is good because Paul and I are both 6'3" and McCall is no slouch either. We all fit great in the car with tons of room to the door and tunnel. Damn this car is wide! This seat in an E36 BMW would be 4" outside of the outer door skin. The slider allows for about 18" of fore-aft travel. None of this is ChumpCar legal yet, as under their rules we will have to install a roll cage (obviously) and a seat back support if the slider has more than 3" of travel. Good enough for HPDE use, though.

The old OEM Torque Arm bushing was replaced with fresh OEM part and the cast steel "damper weight" was removed. Olof worked on this and removed the weight, replacing that bracket made of steel sheet metal with some washers. The old bushing was oil soaked and shot, and that could make for unsafe axle hop under heavy braking.

In order to cover the giant hole we made extracting the dead fuel pump, a fuel pump access panel cover was made from some scrap aluminum and is held in place by six bolts and six nutserts Ryan installed. That little nutsert assortment and tool kit we purchased a while back gets used a lot when working on race cars. So much nicer to unbolt something than having to cut the heads off of pop-rivets.

(continued below)

Last edited by Fair!; 03-12-2013 at 07:32 PM.
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