EL CAMINO Project Progress.....FINALLY! I'm not the mechanic I once was.

Chuck Cole

Chuck Cole

Greasemonkey
May 10, 2017
141
43
Granite Falls, WA
Some of you have been following my project, which started about one year ago now. It started with much enthusiasm, and anticipation. I had always restored Oldsmobiles, 7 of them all totalled; 1963 x 2, 1967 x 2, 1968, 1974, and 1976 (all Cutlass; Supreme or 442). I came into the 1980 El Camino through some trades, and though it was nice outside, the drive train needed a lot of help. Never wanting a SBC of any kind, knowing there is not much you can do to hop up a 3.8 even-fire Buick, I had access to a '68 Olds 350 that was original with less than 70K miles, a 2 bbl version but it had the great heads and had never been abused. I used the El Camino to retrieve the 350, sort of poetic justice to have to haul your replacement home! My first thought was to put in the engine as it sat and get it back on the road. All of you putting Olds V-8's in another G Body quit laughing! The compression of all 8 cylinders were not close enough to trust, so I decided to tear it down and do it all right. Almost $2k in machine shop to start with, and another $1000 in W-31 Spec new parts pretty much doubled the budget. My Dad always said "a job worth doing is worth doing right" ... and, "it only costs a little more for first class". The previous owner had stated it had a TH 350, which seemed possible after 40 years. It never seemed to lock-up so I figured the TH 250C was long gone. In March, I had the engine together and ready to go in. I pulled out the V-6 with the transmission, not all that difficult, and was ready to bolt the transmission on when I saw the infamous band adjuster. I listened to many on this forum about how a TH 250C would not hold up with $350+ horses, and knew instantly I had some searching to do. With the engine bay empty, I noted that the Olds V-8 G Body engine mounts were needed (Thanks Joe P!). Over a month of searching to find a usable set for a reasonable price, and several forum members who jammed me good, but the forum came through and I put in the engine. I wanted the 2711 intake for hood clearance and because I was not building a super hot racer, but Edelbrock dropped the ball and after a month of waiting for them to make a new one available, I opted for the 7111 anyway. The hood fits without the hood blanket, it is that close! GRRRR! It is now late July, and my build is far over budget and way behind schedule. I spent the hottest month in decades doing a lot of small things; interior stuff. I bought an A/C delete panel so I would still have a heater, and give more room to the Olds engine. The dash on this California car looked like it had been hit with a grenade! It still does but I am working on that now. I installed body mounts over about 3 days, a new ignition lock, re-keyed the doors to the same key, did some paint repair, polishing, brakes and then next thing I know it is September. I located a TH350 with a 2500 stall so a few weeks later it was in. I took almost a month off with no work being done out of total frustration that I could not get some things right, like bolt #7 in the intake manifold tightening sequence...a very tight fit. It cost me 3 intake gasket sets. Finally I went with Mondello's and it was on in 15 minutes. The cross member...3 bolts came off easily, but the 4th was a rounded head...like some dumb_ss had used an air wrench. It is a freaking 19/32 socket which I happened to have but it would not budge it. Finally...the old school mechanic in me resurfaced. I got my best *Craftsman 9/16 socket and a small sledge and drove the socket on. The 4th bolt came out. This little chore took me a total of 4 hours, off and back on, because the factory mounts are a really stupid design, similar to all the body mounts in stupid! So last weekend was the biggest turning point. The engine is buttoned up. The Transmission is buttoned up, installed with the mounts, the driveline is bolted on, and up top, the intake and carb are on. I primed the oil pump. I have only to get the gas lines on, the power steering brackets on, the radiator in and trans cooling lines installed, the starter and distributor in, plugs, wires and timing, vacuum lines and the a/c delete panel in and working...and it is startup time...at least 6 months later than I had planned. I learned many things, but most of all; G Bodies will test every strand of mechanic's knowledge, and force you to buy tools you never had before. The mix of metric and SAE makes it more challenging than all of my total restorations beyond Olds; Triumph TR-6, 2 Mini Cooper S, a 46 Chevy 1/2 ton, and an MGB! I still have much to do, but now the biggest marathons in my mechanic history are behind me. Not one thing was an easy fix! Never was anything simple. ALWAYS the amount of room to work was too small. But, I can see the end coming. A full year of liking the thought, but hating the reality that G Bodies really cannot be restored, only refit or upgraded. On a 1968 Olds I would have been done and driving it in 5 months. So E-X-C-U-S-E M-E if I sometimes seem testy. I have never done this much work to any single car, and my mind remembers it was easy to do this, but the G body is not EVER as simple period. I know we all love our G Bodies, but DAMN!

I have historic plates which will prevent me from driving it a lot ... hahaha WHO ARE WE KIDDING WASHINGTON State? The one thing I will say without a doubt is that many on this forum, and you know who you are, were very, very helpful. I recommend that you listen to them much better than I did. I might have saved hundreds and months if I paid more attention to the EXPERTS! I hope I will have some photos soon of the finished project, and I will get some vids with sound when I have the exhausts working.
 

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Chuck Cole

Chuck Cole

Greasemonkey
May 10, 2017
141
43
Granite Falls, WA
I will drive it as often as possible in good weather which only happens in the Summer months mostly, but if it becomes a commuter for any period of time I will always point out it needs fixing and I live 27 miles from any shop or mechanic. They would never know it has a 1968 engine and that the cat con fell off! It is exempt from emission testing at least for now where I live...unincorporated.
 
1evilregal

1evilregal

Comic Book Super Hero
Apr 23, 2009
2,762
113
Greensboro, NC
Glad you stuck with it, looks to be a really nice elky, and I somehow like the uniqueness of the olds engine in it!

these cars are definitely as frustrating as a Lucas electrical system in an MGB(had one years ago, and only thing keeping me out of another is prices), but like the brit cars, they require a lot of patience ( maybe that’s why after 15 years, my regal looks like something that the cat coughed up :unsure: ). Keep up the good work, you’ll be glad you did (I enjoy driving the Grand Prix every chance I get. It’s more of a decompression chamber than a car!)
 
69hurstolds

69hurstolds

Comic Book Super Hero
Jan 2, 2006
2,887
113
G Bodies really cannot be restored, only refit or upgraded.
Congrats on getting your car this far, but I am throwing the BS flag on your assessment about G-body restoration. Whether it is personally worth doing it is a completely different question. But I find that statement factually incorrect.

Carry on and enjoy!
 
Chuck Cole

Chuck Cole

Greasemonkey
May 10, 2017
141
43
Granite Falls, WA
Glad you stuck with it, looks to be a really nice elky, and I somehow like the uniqueness of the olds engine in it!

these cars are definitely as frustrating as a Lucas electrical system in an MGB(had one years ago, and only thing keeping me out of another is prices), but like the brit cars, they require a lot of patience ( maybe that’s why after 15 years, my regal looks like something that the cat coughed up :unsure: ). Keep up the good work, you’ll be glad you did (I enjoy driving the Grand Prix every chance I get. It’s more of a decompression chamber than a car!)
Yes we all need a place to decompress! Progress though sometimes painfully slow is still progress. Can you believe I have somehow misplaced the power steering pump and brackets. It is kind of large to overlook. Alternator went on today, fan shroud, and did some fiberglassing of the a/c delete panel. I am experimenting with Gorilla glue and fiberglass cloth So far seems easier than 2 part mixing. We'll see what sanding does. Low smell too!
 
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Reactions: Tony1968
Chuck Cole

Chuck Cole

Greasemonkey
May 10, 2017
141
43
Granite Falls, WA
Will that help me find my power steering pump? :giggle: Ohhhhh...you mean for fiberglass repairing :blam: I have to make a large panel for the interior to close off the vents etc and channel the air for the back of the a/c delete so sweatshirt it is! Oooo a sleeve might make a tube :banana:
 

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