EL CAMINO 1983 El Camino 5.3 Swap / Build Thread

JohnIL

Greasemonkey
Thread starter
Sep 9, 2020
122
63
Central Illinois
I was always interested in seeing how hard it would be to put an LED strip into the upper bed moulding. Thought about doing something in the rear window channel, but figured if there was ever a problem the adhesive would suck. Others have junkyard swapped brake lights on the inside of the glass. Reflection into the cab becomes a concern. Think the wagon guys found something that works. Not sure, maybe someone else will chime in.

The light we found isn't a perfect fit. It's a bit too tall to fit between the upper cab trim and the rear window trim. My plan is to mount it below the cab moulding, overlapping the rear window trim. It's not a perfect solution, but it will definitely be visible, which I suppose is the whole point. If we stumble across a really thin strip light that fits between the trim lines, I'm sure that would look better.

The key to ease of installation is the headliner. With the headliner out, the wiring is simple. With the headliner in, it would be a nightmare.
 

Tomeal

G-Body Guru
Apr 17, 2016
593
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Clyde,pa
Thread from another forum, but kind of gets the creative ideas going.

 

scoti

Royal Smart Person
Supporting Member
Sep 5, 2019
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Texas
The light we found isn't a perfect fit. It's a bit too tall to fit between the upper cab trim and the rear window trim. My plan is to mount it below the cab moulding, overlapping the rear window trim. It's not a perfect solution, but it will definitely be visible, which I suppose is the whole point. If we stumble across a really thin strip light that fits between the trim lines, I'm sure that would look better.

The key to ease of installation is the headliner. With the headliner out, the wiring is simple. With the headliner in, it would be a nightmare.
One suggestion is to test it out using a magnetic base & make sure it does what you want before poking more holes/sources for moisture to creep into the interior.
 

JohnIL

Greasemonkey
Thread starter
Sep 9, 2020
122
63
Central Illinois
One suggestion is to test it out using a magnetic base & make sure it does what you want before poking more holes/sources for moisture to creep into the interior.
That's a great suggestion. We mocked it by hand. I held it in place by hand and tapped the brake pedal to trigger the light. It's VERY bright. Attaching temporarily with magnets would let us take it for a drive with a chase car to see how well it works out on the road.
 
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mclellan83

Comic Book Super Hero
Jun 27, 2017
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Pgh, PA
I would have leaned towards a rope light inside or something so you don't have to worry about making holes, something like this

 

JohnIL

Greasemonkey
Thread starter
Sep 9, 2020
122
63
Central Illinois
Finally, some decent weather

You've all heard me lament the cold weather this winter and spring. Well, the temperature finally warmed up over the weekend and there are signs of life in the yard. The magnolias are in bloom and the grass is turning green. It very may snow on Easter, but this weekend it was warm enough to spend some quality time in the garage.

3rd Brake Light
On Saturday afternoon, I buttoned up the installation of the 3rd brake light. Since there is no headliner in the way, the mounting and wiring was easy. You can see pictures below of the light in action. This makes a vast improvement in brake light visibility. I hope this will help keep other drivers from driving over my son's tailgate. We're both pretty pleased with the way the light turned out.

Ignition Lock Cylinder
This one is a good story. When we first got the car running, after sitting for almost 20 years, we noticed that the ignition lock cylinder needed to be replaced. It was stiff and it didn't "click" into the off and accessory positions. I picked up a replacement part at O'Reilly several months ago. I've been waiting for a warm day so I could take my time and teach my son how to disassemble and reassemble the steering column. It's not difficult, but it takes time and requires just about every tool in the garage, including a couple of specialty tools my son has never had occasion to use. Well, Saturday was the day. The disassembly went well enough. My son didn't even break anything inside the column. Once we got down the lock cylinder, things got interesting. I handed my son the T25 driver and asked him to remove the cylinder retaining screw and he said, "What screw?". That's right, there was no retaining screw. I've replaced ignition lock cylinders in several G-bodies, but I've never seen one with out a retaining screw. In fact, there was hole in the column for retaining screw, but there was no groove in the lock cylinder for the screw to lock into. Instead, there was a spring-loaded retaining button at the end of the cylinder. The replacement cylinder had a slot for a retaining screw, but without an actual retaining screw, there was no way to install it.

So, I took the replacement cylinder and the cylinder we removed to O'Reilly to look for a replacement. No matter how many different ways they looked it up, their computer insisted that we had the right replacement. I went back out the parking lot, sat in my truck, and thought about why this particular 1983 El Camino would have something other than a stock lock cylinder. Then it dawned on me. If you've been following this build thread from the beginning, you know that the car has been in my family for almost 30 years, beginning with my uncle. He used to be fulltime self-employed mechanic and bought the El Camino as a parts hauler. Outside of work hours, his real passion was (and still is) Pontiac GTO's, specifically, convertible Ram-Air3/4 Judge models. He has 25ish GTO's in his collection. So, on a lark, I asked O'Reilly to look up the ignition lock cylinder for a 1970 GTO and sure enough, it matched the one that came out of the El Camino. I suspect that the cylinder went bad at some point and he grabbed one from his parts shelf and never looked back.

Once we had the correct (sort of) replacement cylinder, the replacement was easy. It all went right back together. No fuss, no muss. If you ever find yourself in a pinch, an older style (late '60's, early '70's) A-body ignition lock cylinder will snap into place in a G-body, there's just no provision for a retaining screw. If I ever stumble across one of those factory installed cylinder retaining screws, we'll go back and replace the cylinder with the correct 1983 replacement part.

Engine Intake Cover
On Sunday afternoon, as soon as the temperature got warm enough to paint, I laid down four coats of base color on the engine intake cover. See the pictures below. Now that it's red, I can see every single blemish in my miserable attempt at bodywork. Still, it's not too bad considering guy that did the work. I'll give it a few days to cure, then I'll do some masking and spray some SS strips in "aluminum" silver. It's getting there.

Rust and Dent Repair
While the paint was drying on the intake cover, my son and I dug into the rust and dent repair. There is A LOT of it. In addition to usual mid-west rot (door bottoms and quarter panels), there is also vandalism damage. Shortly after my uncle bought the car, my cousin borrowed it to drive to a party at a friends house. At that point, teenager things happened. One of my cousin's friends got drunk and mad, then proceeded to kick in the quarter panel, just behind the driver's door and above the rear wheel well. Then, he stumbled his way around the car and attempted to rip the mirror off the passenger door. I really hate people who destroy other peoples property. Sadly, the damage was never really repaired. Years later, my father pulled the dent behind the driver door with a slide hammer leaving 50ish holes and a rippled panel, but that's far as the repairs went. On top of all of that, the El Camino came from the factory with bed rails (6 large rusty holes in the top edge of both quarter panels) and a snap-on tonneau cover (about a dozen small rusty holes on both quarter panels and across the tailgate. There is also the usual assortment of dents and dings elsewhere on the body.

We started by drilling about a hundred new holes in the body in order to pull the various dents with a slide hammer. We already had about a hundred holes to weld up, so another hundred was no big deal. Once we had the dents reasonably straight, we ground off some paint and my son set to work with the mig welder, welding up all the holes. As he worked his way around the car, I followed with an air grinder. We got roughly half the holes welded up and dressed. We ended the day by shooting the bare spots with primer to help keep the rust at bay until our next garage session. There's a lot left to do, but progress is progress. Even after the pulling, welding, and grinding, the driver side quarter panel is wrinkled mess. I see a lot of filling and blocking in our future.

What's Next?
Now that we've started on the bodywork, that's pretty much all we'll be doing for a while. We have new lower door skins for both sides and rear quarter front lower patch panels for both sides. The rear quarter rear lowers will need to be patched with sheet steel because those patch panels have completely disappeared from the market since the beginning of the pandemic. We'll be doing lots of cutting, welding, rust converting, priming, filling, sanding, and repeating. Good times.
 

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JohnIL

Greasemonkey
Thread starter
Sep 9, 2020
122
63
Central Illinois
It's sad to think that it's been an entire month since my last update. On the plus side, spring has finally arrived. In fact, we skipped spring and went directly to summer. It's been in the low 90's all week. Weather turned warm (very warm) last weekend and we finally got some quality garage time.

Engine Intake Cover
On Saturday, in between yardwork obligations, we finished the paint on the Engine Intake Cover. I'm extremely happy with the final product. The SS stripes are sprayed in an aluminum silver engine paint. The "Chevrolet" lettering is a set of vinyl decals for tri-five Chevy small block valve covers. If I had known it turn out this nice, I would have spent more time getting the bodywork straight. This was a fun project and it makes a huge difference in the aesthetics of he engine bay.

IntakeCover16.jpg
IntakeCover17.jpg
IntakeCover18.jpg


More Rust and Dent Repair
We spend pretty much all of Sunday working on the driver side rear quarter panel. This the panel that took most of the vandalism damage. This is the same panel we started on back in April. We finally got the majority of the caved in area pulled out and we got all of the slide-hammer screw holes welded up. Here are some before and after pictures to give an idea of what we're up against on this panel. As you can see in the "after" picture, we left some of the welds lumpy. The lumps are in the bottoms of the shallow dents. The body filler on this panel will be thicker than I had hoped. Now, I'm hoping that the lumpy welds will help stabilize the panel and the filler. Lots of filling and blocking.


BodyWork03.jpg
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What's Next?
Next up is cutting and welding patch panels. We have patch panels for the rust holes in the front lower corners of both rear corner panels (right behind the doors). These are, by far, the worst of the body rot. We'll have to cut out the rust, rebuild the inner structure behind the quarters, then weld in the new patch panels. Oh, and spread LOTS of rust converter and rust encapsulator paint. This is going to take a while. I just hope it doesn't take another month to post an update. Wish us luck!
 
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