Category Archives: Cool Stuff

Its About Time

HEI distributor ignition

With the engine complete, the time has come to tune it properly. The main two ways to go about that are tuning the air/fuel ratio via the carburetor, and controlling the ignition advance. Today I’ll talk about the ignition advance. For years, and years (n years n years) I looked at distributor ignition timing as setting the timing at a certain mark, at idle with the vacuum advance unplugged. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the timing set at idle speed, actually depends on the optimal fully advanced ignition curve subtracted from the perfect advance for the engine application. So, with the knowledge that large GM V8’s, at least the ones I know about, seem to perform best when they’re total advance is somewhere around 35 to 36 degrees. They also seem to perform best, for our purposes, when that advance is all-in by 3000 rpm. Now … Continue reading

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Rochester Quadrajet Overhaul

Completely assembled

OK, so I’ve heard the comments, ‘quadrajunk’, ‘bogjet’ -whatever! You have to know, the feds were mandating that everything ran on the ragged edge of lean bach in those days. So if you take a good, functional design and impose less than perfect mixtures, you can end up with problems. However, if you’ve ever ridden in a car with a properly functioning Quadrajet, you may have noticed that incredible moan that tells you precisely which carb is on that big motor. Step one was to toss the Edelbrock, square bore that everybody is using today, and find a suitable candidate for the overhaul. And just like everyone else, the first stop was EBay. Step two, maybe learn a little something about them. Cliff Ruggles is literally ‘the guy who wrote the book’ so I got his book and began to email him. He convinced me I really, probably wouldn’t screw … Continue reading

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If You’re Gonna Do It, Do It Right!

Man Jewelry

If you take things apart to improve them, and you find more problems than not, at some point you just have to decide to strip things to the bare bones and start all over. That’s where I found myself at the point of complete disassembly. So stick with me and I’ll try to describe this build from the ground up. The block was sent off to our local top-notch machine shop for re-animation. Fortunately for me they allowed me to nag them from time to time to monitor the progress as they bring the 40 year old iron back to life. After hot tanking and ‘fluxing to check the integrity of the block, it was line bored, the deck was cleaned up and the cylinders were bored .040 over. (We found it was .030 over already). The original crankshaft was cleaned up, the original rods were resized and ARP rod … Continue reading

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I’ll Just Fix a Few Things

Looks like oil changes were good

If you read the previous post, you know I’ve determined that I had a burnt exhaust valve on the #6 cylinder. Now I had done some digging to figure out what kind of engine was in the firebird. Knowing that this was originally a 301 Turbo engine, I went into this knowing my engine was not the correct one for this car, but I needed to determine what it was and what is was out of. I got the codes from the cylinder head and the stamping from the engine block. I figured out I had a nice strong block, good for power. But the cylinder heads indicated they were small valve heads from a two barrel application. I wasn’t looking for a high compression race engine but I don’t need a super low compression lunk either. So, although I was tempted, and had sourced a set of #12 Ram … Continue reading

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A Bit About Da ‘Bird

1980 Trans Am

So how did I decide which Trans Am to get? I wasn’t in the market for an original high dollar collector or a trailer queen. I wanted a driver and a project. I really wanted a later, second generation TA since the WS6 option, which was a handling-only option, had just come out in ’78. It had a larger rear bar, additional support for the front cradle, 4 wheel disc brakes, quicker steering ratio, and 8″ wide snowflake wheels. Problem was, the later power trains got more and more anemic. So I really wanted an earlier ’70’s engine with a beefy transmission. I got lucky and found this 1980 Turbo Trans Am that has already had the 301ci Turbo weakling replaced with a genuine Pontiac 400ci platform and a turbo 400 automatic transmission. So with nearly no rust found, I had the platform and the drive train I was hoping … Continue reading

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Dad Was A Pontiac Man


There may not be gold in them, there hills, but there’s Sylva! OK, bad pun, but I couldn’t wait to use it. My wife and I were visiting one of our daughters in western North Carolina this weekend and spent some time, on Saturday, in Sylva. A small town that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time 50 years. As luck would have it, among the antique shops and restaurants, there was a car show by the Western North Carolina, Early Times, Pontiac-Oakland club showcasing cars associated with the mark from 1920’s to the 1950’s. There were several stunning cars, but what really stood out to me, was how much work the early driver had to go thru to, just to drive. The earliest car there was a 1917 Oakland, that was little more than a horse carraige with an engine. But the most shocking bit about it … Continue reading

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Gadgets To Help You Get There Faster and Safer

I’ve never heard the word “Derecho” before, but evidently it’s a storm. A bad one. With very strong winds and no warning. At least that is how I will remember it. June 29th, 2012 I was driving most of my family from North Carolina to New Jersey. We left around 5:30pm so as to avoid the dreaded traffic in DC at rush hour. Unfortunately we ran into a backup long before we got to DC and detoured onto 301, thereby avoiding DC and sending us up through Maryland to Baltimore. The weather was hot. At one point on the Yuk’s thermometer, it showed 109 degrees. That is WAY HOT for the humid east coast. Other than that, it was clear and calm. That is until about 10:30pm. I was following a semi up near Annapolis when I began to see debris flying around between his rig and my truck. The … Continue reading

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Driving Lights, Bright Idea or Dim Witted?

The LED matches the blue of the bright light indicator

Wow it’s been a long time since I’ve been here, my apologies. Let’s get to it. Since I was a kid, I’ve noticed those that like to modify their vehicles really love to install fog lights. There are as many types as there are cars. Fog lights can be extremely useful…well…in fog I suppose, but I find they are most useful on a rainy night on roads without street lights. Even when I had younger eyes, seeing the edge of the road, on a rainy night, was much easier with fogs. However, what I find REALLY helpful are driving lights. I heard that! What’s the difference? They are two completely different animals. Fog lights illuminate the road IMMEDIATELY in front of your vehicle. Let’s say 25 feet in front, and nearly 180 degrees from where your hood ornament would be if cars still had those. Like I said, that can … Continue reading

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A New Life for an Old Fad…I said FAD!

Cobra 75 installed neatly and out of the way

In a continuation of the last post, let me quickly show you how I added a red-necky CB radio in a Denali without making it look like Larry-the-Cable-Guy did it. First, I have two CB’s left from older rides. One a Cobra 29 LTD. You know, the big box with all the knobs, chrome face, hanging microphone, straight-from-the-Kenworth CB. (I know truckers don’t use Cobras, let it go) It’s been slightly modified to have a bit more power, a la Tim Taylor. It puts out about 30 watts max, not massive, but better than 6. It is very functional and has a great range. However, it would be horribly out of place in a modern Denali. AAAAnnnnddd there’s no place to put it other than inside the console. The other radio is a smaller Cobra 75. It’s an all-in-one unit that hasĀ all the displays, knobs, and everything in what would … Continue reading

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“How ‘Bout ya Southbound. Ya Got It On?”

Little Cobra 75 Tucked Away

So last week I posted a few things that any driver should be thinking about when they are driving. This week, let me show you somethingĀ that I use quite frequently on long trips. Back in the ’70’s a song came out that subsequently turned into a movie. ‘Convoy’ was about a group of truckers, talking on the CB radio, that got together and drove lawlessly across country. Now I don’t recommend driving lawlessly anywhere, but there are ways to make your trip a little quicker. Enter the lowly CB radio. Used by over-the-road truckers for decades to get directions, stay awake, find local information, and discuss the finer points of 4 wheelers, seat covers, countie mounties and beavers. Anyway, our little family has had the opportunity to spend an enormous amount of time on the open highway due to travel soccer, swim and dance teams. Listening to the CB has … Continue reading

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