Archive for the ‘1993 Pontiac Sunbird coupe’ Category

Research and Development Mishap.

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Several years ago I machined an adjustable cam gear for the 2.0. It was a single piece of aluminum and adjusted by having offset holes for the cam dowel in the center to alter the cam timing. To make a long story short, you will notice that there is very little material left in the center. I intended to make a support washer for this to make it more solid, but … I never quite got around to it. I had actually been running the gear for quite a while, and you can probably imagine what happened from there. While exiting the highway on the way to work: Clang! clang! clang! as it went bouncing down the road. After a quick tow to work, I saw what was left. I replaced the factory steel gear a few days later and headed home. I actually have three (new 2 piece design, and stronger of course) adjustable cam gears already in progress, so once I get one finished up I’ll see if it fares better!

pre-shear gear

pre-shear gear

remains of gear

remains of gear

Hood pins.

Friday, March 13th, 2015

My second set of Quik Latch mini “hood pins” began to fail: on the way home one day, half of the hood started floating up on the highway which was a little scary.  It was time to do something about it. Although that’s exactly what I said after the first ones failed, it was easier to put on a second set just to get by for a while.  The problem is the Quik Latch pins only have three very small tangent contact points, so they wear easily and once they do, they don’t hold on any more. To be fair, I don’t think they are designed to be hood pins (the company makes much larger ones for that.) Still, it seems like they are supposed to hold on body panels and other similar things, which would undergo some of the same stresses, so I’m not sure I would trust them for anything more than very light duty.

I made a temporary hood pin that was basically a threaded rod to replace the Quik Latch ball stud and then turned up a stepped washer on the lathe to bolt the hood closed. Then I set to work on designing my own hood pins. I wanted them to function similar to the Quik Latches and not need any tools to open the hood, be quick and easy to operate, be small and unobtrusive, have a flush look unlike regular hood pins, use the same holes that were already in the hood, and most importantly be solid! Which of course is asking a lot. That being said, I think I succeeded and really like the look of the new ones with the black anodized aluminum top piece. The new pins work with ball lock pins that latch into stainless receivers mounted to the radiator support.  They were a bit of a challenge to install due to getting the compound angles to line up, but once that was taken care of they worked fine. They seem very rugged, so we’ll see how they hold up in the long term.

pin assemblies pre-anodize

pin assemblies pre-anodize

 

anodized and installed

anodized and installed

 

anodized close up

anodized close up

 

Exhausted 2.0

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Not only referring to myself at the end of the day, but the latest upgrade to the two door Sunbird: a custom, fully stainless exhaust system… I mentioned this was in the works in a previous post somewhere, but it’s finally finished. It was somewhat expensive, but it came out looking, sounding, and feeling awesome, and I’m really happy with it and the shop that did the work and find it was well worth the expense. Plus, it won’t be rusting out every couple years like the cheap replacement exhaust parts, which also don’t fit so well and I’m sure flow horribly. So here’s the details, and then I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves: .5″ stainless exhaust flange machined by myself (nobody makes them of course,) 1.5″ primary (approx 24″) long tubes  merging under the oil pan to a 2.25″ collector with bung for narrow o2, vband to intermediate pipe with flex pipe and bung for wideband o2, vband, resonator, vband, cat back, vband right after the rear axle to a Borla ProXS and a straight slash cut tip. Everything is stainless, mandrel bent, and straight through. It has a mellower and slightly quieter tone (mostly noticed from the outside, since the inside is always loud,) that sounds really nice, and has picked up some power too – I surprised myself by punching it when leaving a friends house the other day and it actually broke the tires loose – it didn’t used to be very easy to do that. I had to extend my narrow o2 wire and reroute the wideband harness since everything moved, but that’s it. On to the pictures.

Side marker upgrade.

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

So today’s mini Sunbird resto project was to put some new front side marker lamp assemblies in. The originals were all cracked, beat up, and coming apart at the seams. The stamped-sheet-metal-self-threading-nuts that attach them (via plastic studs) are a huge pain to work with because they rust, are rounded and hard to get a tool on, and also a little difficult to get at;  so I decided to go a different route. I used a 1/4-20 die to thread the studs on the new parts, and then used washers and wing nuts to attach them. The front one has to be put on either first or before everything gets tightened because it’s hard to access, but knowing that, it works sweet.

Now for one they look better, and for two pop on and off easy with no tools. I used some standard steel hardware because it was available, but plan to replace it with nylon wing nuts and washers – they won’t rust and should hold them on just fine. I took a picture of the threaded studs, but it came out terrible so I’m not going to bother…

Bird update 9/14

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Since it’s been a long time, I’m going to roll all my Sunbird goings-on into one big update. It has of course been daily driven and not had any major problems other than yet some more rust repair and has just been reliably racking up the miles and carrying on. I’m also continuing to develop parts for the 2.0L and cementing my plans for the future, since this is likely soon to be my only car for a while. So I’d like to make it a little more fun, to improve its performance and handling, and also make it a little quieter.

On to what’s been going on…

Stage 1 performance upgrade attempt 1:
The plan was to grab a UAFC from 14point7 to do some quick and dirty tuning, put in new followers and a factory 20SEH cam, magically add 15-20hp and wind up with somewhere around 125-130hp quick, cheap, and easy! Of course reality struck soon after and the UAFC wouldn’t read the RPM and suddenly the project was dead in the water. To their credit, they were very helpful in trying to get it working, but in the end it wasn’t happening. I was not about to toss a wildly different cam into my daily driver and see what happened, so back to square one. One of the reasons I wanted to try this route is the ease of setup. I still plan to go to the Megasquirt, and now it seems to really be the only option anyway, but I need downtime to get it all set up which can be tricky on a daily. So one step at a time I’ll see if I can get the MS ready to go and then maybe I’ll need some experienced help to iron out the tuning quickly. Then toss in the new cam and see how it does. It will just take a while I’m sure, which is what I was hoping would not be the case.

In preparation for the piggyback tuner, I swapped from a DIY wideband kit which seemed to work ok, but was pretty jumpy to an AEM wideband controller & gauge mostly because it is simpler and would help with datalogging. It was an easy switch and the gauge looks and works very nice.

Painting project:
I was going to call this the beautification project, but that was kind of laughable. My friend convinced me that a rattle can paint job was the way to go, especially for how I use the car, and I think he was right. Scrapes, repairs, changes, just grab the extra can off the shelf and touch it right up … no messing around. On a whim, I changed my mind about the color – previously I’d wanted to keep it gray and really like the “cement gray” color found on some newer Scions. I still may have to use that on something down the road. Anyway, the new color of choice is Krylon italian olive satin. Love it or hate it, that’s what it is. I spent all weekend grinding some rusty spots, and acetoning off the old flaky clearcoat, and then masking and painting of course. A few things I learned along the way are:

  1. It is extremely difficult to get the paint to look even when using cans (a real spray gun is much easier in this respect actually.)
  2. Those paint-can-trigger things are very well worth it
  3. The roof is easily the hardest part to do and to get even (mine isn’t even, but it’s done.)
  4. It takes about a dozen cans (I used 10 actually, but better to be safe, and I had a nicely primed base.)
  5. To get it to look even kinda smooth and even takes some serious practice, if it’s possible at all … the best I can advise from my limited experience is to try broad, quick strokes, and do sections while keeping them “wet”
  6. Start with the roof (this tip was passed down to me.)
  7. There’s a fine line between sparse paint, enough paint, and a run.

 

Below are some pics. It’s certainly not the prettiest thing on the road, but it does look a lot better than flaking clearcoat, and I like how it turned out. I ran out of time for the additional masking needed to do the hood black so I just shot it in green, but it will be getting painted black. Also, I left the spoiler off for the same reason and moved the third brake light inside the car. I kinda like the wingless look, but nobody else I ask seems to, so I’m not sure on that one yet. I’m going to keep the brake light inside because the old metal housing was heavy and all the bolts were seized in it.

Stage 2 upgrade/the future:
The next big thing scheduled is getting a full stainless 2.25″ mandrel bent exhaust fabbed up with v bands at the resonator and muffler, which will be a Borla ProXS. Same one that’s on the four door and has a really nice sound without being super loud. The shop where I intend on getting it done is pretty busy, so it might be a month or so before it happens, then will try and get some pics up of it.

Another project that has been under wraps for quite a while is a custom individual throttle body intake setup that I’d like to use with the Megasquirt, a ported head, stainless header, Newman cam, and rebuilt engine. This is the Stage 2 plan. It took a ton of time to model and machine the intake, but it is basically finished now. Internally, the runners taper from the size of the tb outlets to the intake runner port size, while bending between the spacing of the tbs and the runners. The throttle bodies are from a GSXR600. I still need to do some work to attach the throttle shafts back together, the fuel rail, updated clamps to hold the bodies to the intake, and some other minor stuff. I also designed some intake trumpets and retainers and had them 3d printed. I’m not sure if I’m going to use them yet – mostly because there are no provisions for filters, but it was a fun process regardless. The throttle bodies originally have 2 injector ports per runner and secondary butterflies, so I had to make some plugs for the extra holes after removing everything. Also, had the injectors tested and kept the 24# set, which should be perfect. I began some port work to the head by opening up the intake runners at the valve seats, but have stalled on head work for now because of time. Here are a few mockup pictures of the intake in progress, and that’s it for now.

trumpets on itb on intake on head

trumpets on itb on intake on head

intake mockup

intake mockup

from block of aluminum to pair of runners

from block of aluminum to pair of runners

Gutility.

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

GUV: gutted utility vehicle©

My Sunbird is part daily driven commuter, the occasional drag racer, and also part pickup truck! Below it’s loaded up with a set of 55 gallon plastic drums, and later a 2.0L shortblock which are just a few of the many things I have carried in the GUV. Others include many sets of wheels and tires, wheels and tires plus a complete F body front suspension, 8 foot 2x4s for a wall building project, lumber and building supplies for Shed, filled to the roof with boxes when moving, and piled high with garbage bags headed for the dump.

GUV 2.0L

C20LZ (2.0L OHC TBI) shortblock project riding shotgun.

GUV

Transporting a pair of 55 gallon drums.

Solid motor and trans mounts.

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

In yet another move that makes very little sense for a daily driven street car, I decided to go ahead and replace my completely shot factory motor mounts with solid ones. Every mount was beyond destroyed; they had all dropped down and were bottomed out on their housings with the formerly supporting rubber hanging useless. This made for random large vibrations and also lost power since the engine and transmission assembly could pretty much move around freely. I figured the car was already rather loud with no interior so how much worse could the solid mounts make it? Quite a bit, it turns out. The large vibrations were replaced with consistent smoother vibrations, and more rattling of the few items remaining in the cabin. It’s not really all that bad, but in combination with the loud exhaust and no interior, it does get a little tiresome on long drives … which is every day. It did feel a lot better and much more solid though, so I decided to stick with them. My quick cheap solution for now is to just toss in some earplugs for the long drives :). I also appropriately painted “NVH” on my back window since it’s kinda become the theme of the car. Of course, there is no aftermarket for the 2.0L bird, so I designed and machined my own solid motor and transmission mounts out of aluminum and in addition modified and made some delrin bushings for the torque strut “dog bone.”

I installed the mounts one at a time, starting with the transmission mount, then did the rear motor mount, and then put in the front motor mount (this I actually have not made a solid mount for yet, I used a reinforced/filled stock mount.) Anyway, something interesting happened when I put in the trans and rear motor mounts: when I looked at the front mount, I could see that it had raised back into the position it should have been before it collapsed. I figured that meant I did something right in making the other two solid mounts.

rear solid motor mount

rear solid motor mount

solid trans mount

solid trans mount

delrin bushed dogbone

delrin bushed dogbone

Tensioner breakdown.

Friday, May 10th, 2013

The latest bit of automotive excitement that’s happened lately was the complete failure of my timing belt tensioner. When my first one froze up and was no longer tensioning, it caused the belt to shred teeth off from vibration. So I threw on a working tensioner that had 230k miles on it and carried on. Cruising along at 75mph, I heard a big bang, and found myself dead on the side of the highway. I figured it was the belt again and it took me a minute to notice that the tensioner was totally gone except for two small metal tabs still bolted to the block. I grabbed the tools and started tearing off parts while I called for reinforcements to be delivered from my stockpile of Sunbird parts from home. Once all back together, I realized I didn’t have my timing pointer installed, so I had to do some guesswork to find the right spot and get it to fire up. Anyway, it finally did and I pushed on and made it to work only 2 hours late.

tensioner shrapnel

tensioner shrapnel

Post-winter woes.

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Adding another winter of not washing and daily driving my bird (on top of probably every other winter it has ever seen) has resulted in, you guessed it, rust and rot holes! Vacuuming out some dirt from my floorpan a few weeks ago, I noticed a rusty area in front of the rocker panel by the front edge of the driver’s door. Some gentle tapping revealed a small hole … a little more tapping led to a large hole … and so on until arriving at the ugly mess as seen in the picture below. I let it go for a week or so and then figured I may as well take care of the problem.

After removing the front fender and then door, then cutting off the front section of the rocker panel to survey the rest of the damage, I noticed something a little strange: the vertical supports inside the panels were really rotted, but the panels themselves were not in too bad of shape, save the missing portions I had already knocked out. I’m not sure if they used different material for those parts or what, but they were long gone. That’s when I decided to make some “subframe connectors” to stiffen it up in case the rotted supports were actually doing anything. The connectors are basically just 1×1.5x.080 wall steel tubing welded inside the car to the rocker panels (I will do the passenger side later.)  I think this should add a fair amount of support, and should be protected from future damage being inside the car; if the outer panels get bad, it should hold things together until they can be patched up again.

Pretty much all I do for repairs like this, especially if they are mostly not seen, is hack out the rotten sections back to good sheetmetal, then use some cardboard templates to get an idea of the shape I want, then MIG weld in the new panels, piece by piece. It’s  not necessarily the prettiest, but it gets the job done and I’m only going for function. Lots of times, I don’t even try to follow whatever used to be there, I will just pick a shape and go with it that isn’t too difficult to fab using just a vice and a hammer. I didn’t even bother to grind down the visible weld on the rocker panel … I just think of it as a scar. Anyway, I spread this out over about a week and borrowed the 4 door bird to get to work. Here are some before, during, and after pictures of the patch up.

Unobtrusive Audio v2.0

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

My original post “Lightweight, unobtrusive audio.” details my first ipod-only audio setup. This one has been a long time coming, because version two has been in effect for quite a while now. When pod one died I went soundless for a few months, until my favorite brother in law gave me his 6th gen nano which he said he didn’t use. Perfect, I thought, it’s smaller, lighter, and easier to try to mount somewhere than the old one. So I set about figuring how and where to mount it and here are the results! Like I’ve mentioned, I have an hour commute, and I did this setup when I started the longer commute, and it works great. Here are the pros and cons of the old setup vs. the new.

v1.0 (30gb ipod color)
pro: ran rockbox, so very customizable, i.e. large easy-to-see-quickly-while-driving text; space for tons of music
con: no good place to mount it so it just bounced around in my console; rockbox was a little glitchy at times

v2.0 (6gb ipod nano)
pro: securely mounted in easy-to-see location with nifty self-designed aluminum mount; super lightweight
con: can only start, stop, and volume control with gloves on; text pretty small and nothing is very customizable, but the text issue isn’t much of one since it’s mounted in an easy to see place; less drive space, but it’s an ok trade off for its size