Over the last half-dozen weeks or so, we’ve posted a potpourri of restoration, maintenance and restoration tips for GM musclecars (parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5). Many of those tips proved to be mechanical shortcuts. Some have been added to keep you from falling into the same mistake traps in which we’ve found ourselves. Others deal with new or current reproductions designed to make life easier for the restorer or hot rodder. Thanks to Classic Industries (18460 Gothard Street, Huntington Beach, CA 92647; PH: 800-854-1280; Website: www.classicindustries.com) for assisting with tech info, along with many of the components you see in the accompanying photos. What follows are the final tips for our giant 88-tip series. Here’s the last of them. Check them out!
74. CAP RE-DO: If you have an original hollow rivet or flat rivet AC radiator cap (circa 1967-72), you might want to tuck it away when you show your car at a public event. The originals can get pricey (we’ve witnessed examples advertised for as high as $600!). Because of this, it’s not uncommon for them to go missing at car shows when you have the hood open and you’re not paying attention. The solution? Swap the genuine cap for a reproduction. They’re available for under $35.
75. BACK PEDAL
Few people look at the gas pedal in a car. No secret. Even if you don't give them a second thought, it’s often the rough edges that can cost you dearly in terms of personal satisfaction or, if you're so inclined, show car points. To fix the finish on a gas pedal, first disassemble it and remove the molded plastic pad. In some cases, it’s possible to clean and detail the original pad. First try brushing it with soap and water (believe it or not, Windex is the perfect cleaner). If you encounter stubborn areas, try a light buffing with 0000 steel wool. When dry, you can lightly spray the pedal pad with tire dressing (the foam stuff we all use to clean tires). Yes, it makes the pedal a wee bit slippery, so use the stuff with some discretion. If, on the other hand, your gas pedal pad is beyond repair, replacements are easy enough to locate. Correct reproductions are readily available.
76. IN THE GUTTER
One part that’s regularly torn up on a first gen Camaro (or similar Nova) is the plastic wire gutter on the firewall, just over the distributor cap on V8 cars. The gutter retains the starter, heater and other wires in the harness and it’s a much-needed part. It’s difficult to restore these and since they’re plastic, they become brittle over time. Correct repros such as the one in our accompanying photo are readily available from Classic Industries, and they’re inexpensive too.
Many parts on a vintage car will be held in place by simple sheet metal screws. If the screw hole is stripped or oversized, it’s next to impossible to tighten the screw. A quick solution is to insert a paper clip in the hole. The result is, of course, a smaller overall hole size - one that allows the sheet metal screw to grip properly.
78. BLEED NOT
This is a tiny restoration item most will ignore, but it’s worth pondering: Brake bleeders on factory disc brake calipers were actually covered with little plastic caps when new. The idea was to keep road grime and debris away from the bleeder. It wasn’t a bad idea, but over time, they can go missing. Fortunately repros are readily available and they’re inexpensive. You’ll appreciate them if you have to bleed the brakes down the road.
79. REVERSE BLEEDING
Speaking of brake bleeding, an alternate method of bleeding brakes consists of using a hand operated vacuum pump attached to the bleed screw. With this setup, you actually pull the fluid through the system instead of pumping it. On some cars, this is the only way to get a proper bleed.
One particular part will get your attention if it’s missing when you try to string out replacement brake lines on a Camaro or Nova 12-bolt. That part is the little bracket that bolts to the axle housing (rear end cover bolt) and clamps the (single) brake hose in place. 10-bolt pieces don't fit and for years, you either had to find an original or cobble something up if the little bracket was missing on 12 bolt cars. Fortunately, Classic Industries now offers the cool repro shown in the accompanying photo.
81. RUST BUCKET
Believe it or not, rust streaks on wheels may be an indication of loose nuts or an improper fit. Tighten the nuts to the proper torque or replace the nuts and remove all rust streaks. A broken stud requires replacement, but the stud next to the broken stud has likely experienced undue stress from carrying twice the load. Replace it too.
82. ACIDIC REFLUX
If you mess around with cars, you should find it no shock that battery terminals have a nasty habit of corroding. Need a fix? Give them a shot of G.E. Silicone II or a similar spray-clear product sprayed over the assembled terminals. The silicone minimizes the corrosion and prevents acid from eating the terminal bolt.
83. GREASE JOB
The use of silicone spray as a lube to help with the installation of weather strip isn’t very good idea. You see, most petroleum-based lubricants eventually eat rubber. Instead, try using soapy water.
84. SIMILAR BUT NOT MATCHING
We mentioned pulleys before, but if you’re doing a big block swap in a small block car, the associated brackets for things like the alternator and power steering pump aren’t the same (even if they look similar). The pieces shown in the accompanying photos are exact 1969 and later (long water pump) BBC reproductions from Classic Industries.
85. MAKING AN IMPACT
Using an impact wrench (air or electric) to remove lug nuts is perfectly acceptable (of course, not so if you’re concerned about nicking the plating on expensive lug nuts). But impact wrenches should never be used during the wheel-tire installation process. Why not? If an impact has been used, and you have to change a flat or accomplish some under-car maintenance, you might not be too thrilled. You see, lug nuts tightened by way of an impact can easily be over-tightened. In turn, that means you might never get the wheels off in an emergency. Almost as bad, over-torqueing the lug nuts can, in certain cases, create rotor warping. What’s the solution? Use a good old-fashioned wrench, and for some applications, following manufacturer’s recommendations and using a torque wrench might not be a bad idea.
86. SCREW DRIVER PROTECTION
It’s pretty common to use a screwdriver to remove door panels in a car. Trouble is, the panels are usually soft (and expensive). On the other hand, screwdrivers are usually sharp. If the screwdriver slips while you’re prying a panel, things get expensive quickly. The solution is simple: Wrap the end of the screwdriver with tape. You’ll be much happier. So will your door upholstery.
87. BULBOUS HOSE
A simple job like swapping light bulbs can turn into a real pain if the bulb is hard to reach (or worse yet, broken). To save agony and physical pain, simply cover the end of the bulb with rubber hose. For larger diameter bulbs, take some old 3/4-inch garden hose, add several slices to the ends and slide the hose over the bulb. In either case, it’s a quick and effective way to remove and replace fragile bulbs.
Plenty of older cars were built with vented gas caps (of course, there were exceptions). Be sure that your cap is correct for the application. Otherwise, you could have a major pressure build up within the tank. The result, of course, is the smell of gasoline vapors inside the car along with surging performance, particularly on warm days. By the way, the cost of a new, vented cap is cheap insurance even if your old example looks fine.