Rookie's First Restoration Attempt...


Well-known member
Mar 28, 2008
I really haven't posted pictures of my restoration project because it always took so long. I have finally been able to sit down and have the time to post pics of my rookie attempt. I think it is coming along great...much better than expected. Here's how this whole restoration project came about...

I looked everywhere for a 1969 camaro...absolutely everywhere. People wanted $7000 for just the engine or anything. Then, after a fellow friend guided me towards a website with cheap project cars, I found a 1976 vette for $5500; I was sold. At first I was going to do a body on restoration. It turned out to be a total body off resto, the biggest project I have ever undertaken before. I can now say that I actually envy the corvette more than the 1969 camaro I wanted...I am happy that I didn't find that 69 camaro. This 76 vette is better!

I personally sandblasted everything before taking parts to the powdercoater. I like to know what is under all that rust before sending it out to be coated. I've began welding every seam on the frame. One of the trailing arm bolt holes was ruined when my uncle what using the oxy/acetylene torch on the rusted shims. No worries though - I fixed it and it looked like it was brand new! I rebuilt the brake calipers with o-rings from vette brakes and products. I cut out all the dents in the frame rails and welded in new metal, then ground everything down nice and smooth. I am also rebuilding my trailing arms by myself. I bought the spindle tool set used to setup the rear bearing but still need to assemble them.

I cannot beleive the amount of work I have done, and I am very proud of myself . I would also like to mention that I am only 18 years old and have personally done everything by myself, and when I mean everything, I mean everything.















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Got a lot done on the vette today. I was able to weld some more parts of the frame (sorry no pics of that yet, will get some asap) and pre-assembled my trailing arms to make sure everything was going to fit. I made a mistake when I was chasing the threads for one of the caliper mounting brackets. I thought it was 7/16 coarse thread instead of the correct 7/16 fine thread...I used the wrong tap. I basically ruined one of the mounting holes, but fixed it with the help of my dad. We drilled the one hole that I messed up with a 29/64'' drill bit (I think that was the size...I picked the correct drill bit size from my tapping chart). I then tapped it to accept a 1/2'' bolt; it's as good as new now! once again my dad saved me around 80 bucks...he's the man.The only problem with using a 1/2'' bolt instead of a 7/16 bolt is I will have to enlarge the hole on the caliper to accept the new bolt...other than that, I don't foresee any problems. I'll try to post pics of the new frame welds later on tonight.



















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Here are some pics. I had to replace one of the bearing supports at the beginning of this project - I ruined the original one which came on the car when I was cutting out the shock mount with a grinder...this was before I bought a hydraulic press, and I have learned from my mistake.










I was having a real hard time figuring out whether I wanted to powdercoat the chassis flat black or mirror black. I had some gloss black spray paint in my cabinet and thought to myself "this will decide once and for all which color I want it." I sprayed the entire frame (its getting sandblasted off anyways) and have decided to go mirror black. All that is left is measuring the frame for the last time sometime tomorrow and then its off to the powdercoaters. I have decided I am going to scrap the side pipe idea and just go with a custom dual exhaust (I'll be welding it up).


Alright here is the update. I got some parts back from the powdercoater last week. I rebuilt my power steering control valve with new parts from paragon. I installed my new crossmember bushings from van steel. I also rebuilt my right lower control arm which I bought from a member on this forum...I deleted all my private messages and forgot the forum member's name (sorry). Either way, I highly recommend him (I'll find out his user name for you guys)...the transaction went smoothly without a glitch. The differential case also came back from the powdercoaters, looks awesome. Installed two u-joints for the half shafts...greaseless of course. I can't wait to take the frame to the powdercoaters this week...very exciting.








I haven't been able to accomplish much on the vette lately. Ever since I took the frame to the powdercoaters, I've been relaxing He said he would probably have the frame done by the middle of next week, we'll have to wait and see. In the mean time, I was able to start rebuilding my differential and steering box. I've been following all of Gary's (GTR1999) papers on rebuilding the differential and steering box assemblies (I also used his trailing arm paper to rebuild my rear suspension - thanks Gary ). The first thing I did was mount the differential casing on a cheap engine stand.


Next, I inspected the damage to the casing caused by the previous owner. It looks like he bubba'd with the the posi case shims. The part where the bolts attach to the ring gear chewed away the side of the casing (from lack of shims I presume), which resulted in chewing away at the side of the posi case as well. First I took a carbide burr and cut all the sharp edges down, then a die grinder with a grinding stone, then a wire wheel on the die grinder to polish up the casing - now there are no sharp edges and its really smooth. Luckily, no damage was caused to the machined bearing areas, which would have resulted in me replacing the entire casing. Then, with the help of my father, I installed the new bearing races.



I broke down and bought a new posi case in the end from Gary (just the casing, not the internals) - I was going to reuse my old one but I $%#&#@ it up. I was pressing out the king pin and thought I had already removed the small hex pin which goes through the top of it. I snapped the hex bolt and it pushed through to the spider gears. I'm sure I could of reused it (there is a tiny bit of play for the hex bolt which goes through the large pin), but for what it was worth, I didn't want to chance it. I didn't want to put all this time into rebuilding a posi unit which was just going to fail on me in the future. I removed the spider gears and all the internals and everything was in great shape. I'll be ordering the rest of the parts I need to rebuild the posi unit from VanSteel next week. I've also decided to change the gear ratio. I will be upgrading from a 3.08 to a 3.73. To save my engine from the extreme RPMS produced by the new ratio, I'll be installing a 200r4 tranny with an overdrive. That way I get the best of both worlds - extreme acceleration and speed, without the high RPM's.

I was waiting on parts for the differential, so I started to rebuild the steering box. forum member seventysixvette sent me a used steering box through the Christmas freebie thread - I paid $40 for shipping. My internals in my box were no good, so I took the internals out of his box and will be using them in my casing. The first think I did was strip his box down take out the internals (I cleaned them of course). Next, as per Gary's paper, I put the pitman arm gear in the casing and measured the play between the bushings. It was 0.006 - I was hoping for it to be like .001...that way I didn't have to go get new bushings made by my friend's machine shop . I pulled the pitman arm to one side, then using my other hand set the dial indicator to zero...


I carefully pushed the pitman to the other side and measured the reading on the indicator...


Damn! The play didn't end up being .001, it was .006 . I could leave it like this, but I'd rather not. I'll take the casing to my friend's machine shop, where I'll machine up some new brass bushings to get the play down to .001. I'll update more when I get the frame back, I'm very excited!


The first thing I did when I got home today was polish the internals from the old steering box. I used a buffing wheel for the pitman shaft. For the worm gear, I used a dremel tool with a buffing tool attachment. They look better than new. Gary's paper said to polish them, so I did.


I removed the bushings today - went fairly smooth. The first thing I did was I found a washer which was roughly the same size as the outside diameter of the bushings (tiny bit smaller). Next, I ground two flats in the washer. This allowed me to simply drop the washer down the hole where the two bushings were and then seat it on top of the bottom bushing - it acted almost as a press plate if you will.



After seating the washer on top of the bottom bushing, I took a ratchet extension I had laying around and attached that to the largest socket which would fit inside the bushing. Make sure to use the largest socket which will fit because the center of the washer is a very weak pressing point for the hydraulic press.





Flip the steering box upside down and repeat the same procedure, only this time, place a pipe on the end so the bushing can press out and drop into the pipe.


I measured the size of the new bushings which I am going to get my friend to machine up for me sometime this week. He says he likes to go off of diagrams and measurements with +- tolerances, so that's what I did. I calculated the inside diameter sizes so the maximum amount of side-play on the pitman shaft is .001'' - the minimum amount of side-play is .001''.I still need to draw up a digram for the third bushing which is at the top of the case - I had to carefully remove that one with a carbide burr and needle nose pliers


I thought I'd post how I powdercoat my own parts at home.

The first thing I do is degrease the part to be powdercoated, then I sandblast the parts in my blast cabinet - I built the cabinet myself.



The next step is to wipe the part down with a clean rag to remove all the sand and dust. You could use compressed air too, but I have found that sometimes water gets by my air filter on the lines and contaminates the part. Make sure to wear gloves when handling the part, you don't want to contaminate it. After all the sand/dust has been removed, I preheat the oven to around 400 degrees. Place the pieces in the oven for about 20 minutes. This will burn off any other contaminants which may still be on the surface.


Let the part cool down and hang it on a rack. I use an old cardboard box which I put a piece of metal rod through the sides. Preheat the oven to the temperature indicated on the powder you bought.


Apply the powder, take the parts to the oven and bake them for 20 minutes (varies with different powders). This picture shows what the pieces look like after a couple of minutes (it looks unevenly coated from this angle, but it is not).


When 20 minutes has past, take the parts out and let them cool down before handing.



Just got a package in the mail from Gary (GTR1999)


I ran outside after I got it and polished it as per Gary's posi tuning paper - that's how excited I was . Here is what it looks like now...nice and smooth...



Okay, its done. I put in another hour last night to put the finishing touches on more cast edges - polished to perfection using a carbide burr, die grinder, sandpaper and an air tool that uses round scotchbrite pads...or as least that's what I think they are.


:excited: Frame back from the powdercoaters.









Trailing arms installed.





These damn trailing arm bushings are killing me. When I installed them, the metal shells were a snug fit in the trailing arm holes. The bushing was properly flared and is tight. But when I apply side pressure to the trailing arm, the bushing binds (like it is supposed to) the the lip of the metal sleeve lifts a tiny bit. I am driving myself crazy over this. Dan at Van Steel said I will be okay, but I'd like to get some more info on this before I move forward with the rear suspension. It is really bothering me, and There is only one way I could fit it. The only way I see I could fix the problem is if I remove the parking brakes from the trailing arms, then I remove the four nuts that attach the bearing assembly to the arm itself. Then I just replace the 2 bare trailing arms with new offset ones like I wanted in the first place. Its hard to see, but look at the metal cup's lip in this'll see it move. What do you guys think I should do? I have that guilt feeling in my stomach again - I originally was going to just buy the offset arms, but decided to use the original ones...bad decision on my part.:lookinup:


My new parts finally came in today. I exchanged my old Dana Ball joints with Vansteel for new Moog joints (replaced all four of them...the pictures only show the upper control arms though)- I paid the difference. I also decided to buy offset trailing arms - I want this car to be mine, not someone elses...I like the look of large tires, so I went with offsets. I got my new 3.73 ring/pinion from VanSteel (they got it form Tom's Differentials). I also got my parts from Gary Ramadai (gtr1999). As you can see, I started tuning my posi case...I'm almost ready to go to my friend's machineshop to finish her up:)



Everything on this car has been powdercoated, with the exception of these two pieces I did last night - I spray painted them. I *$&#ed up my first set...I tried to powdercoat those - I learned my lesson. You should have seen my dad run when he opened up the oven in the garage to see what I powdercoated. He told me that I just created a bomb by heating them up - not only that, but I read in the service manual afterwards that it is extremely dangerous to heat the impact absorbers:surprised. It sure was funny after the fact:laughing: I got these replacements off ebay.



After...sandblasted, primed and painted

Holy crap, I can finally see the floor in my room again:lol: Most of the front suspension is done - I don't know how the hell I am going to work today...I've been wrenching all night and didn't want to stop until it was done. Its a good thing I work for my father;)







Installed steering knuckles, dust shields, caliper brackets and test fitted the brake calipers. This thing looks sick - I never expected it to turn out this good...and I am being honest when I say that. I also can't believe how friggen heavy this chassis is with all the parts on it...its like a truck. I guess that's how they built them back in the day, strong and sturdy.

Got my new CDI Torque wrench in today. Its the same one that the famous Gary Ramadai uses to set up his differentials and steering boxes - he told me that it was a good buy, so I bit the bullet and got it. I'll have it for the rest of my life, so that is good to know.


I got my new offset trailing arms in from Van Steel two days ago and had both arms assembled in the same day. I can see the parking brakes being a *&tch toassemble if your trailing arms are still on the car (because of gravity and parts falling everywhere), but if you have your arms on the workbench...they really aren't that bad - honestly. I heard a tip somewhere in the archives to tie the springs with fishing line, then after you get them set right on the pins, you heat the line through the hole in the spindle using a propane torch (don't hold it in one spot assuming the line will break, point it towards just want the line to break so the spring pops up). It worked great. These offset arms make the stock ones look like a popsicle stick...I can't believe how sturdy and strong these new ones are, I'll never use stock arms again. Remember that one hole in the caliper mounting bracket which I tapped for a 1/2''-20 bolt over the stock 7/16'' bolt? Well, I finally enlarged the caliper so it would fit, everything lined up perfect. I was going to use an ez-thread insert and make a 7/16 bolt fit, but the risk was way too high...if I messed that up, I would have to setup the trailing arm bearings all over again.






I also changed the upper control arm bolts using a nifty trick I picked up on an old thread. I went the NAPA and picked up some lug studs which were almost the exact size as the original control arm bolts (I'll have to get the part number from the box, its laying around here somewhere). I did one bolt at a time and pulled each on through using a nut and a 4 foot piece of pipe for leverage on a wrench; it couldn't have gone any smoother. This way I don't have to hold a wrench on the other side when I am doing an alignment, which would have been a pain in the ass if I had just used regular bolts.



Just finished making my setup bearings for my differential rebuild...holy crap did that take long. I had to use a die grinder to bore the ID on the bearings then use a cylinder hone to finish it off. I used some emery cloth too - I didn't want to have to wait for my friend to put it on his lathe and slip fit them for me...would have taken too long, plus he's already helping me with my posi case/steering box. They fit nice and snug. This will allow me to setup my differential without having to press the bearings on/off every two seconds. I bought 2 brand new timken bearings - the same ones I am installing into the case upon final assembly. The smaller one wasn't so hard...I just enlarged the ID a tiny bit to allow it to fit was really tight before I did that.


Here are two homemade tools I made for the diff rebuild. The first one holds the pinion in place and prevents it from falling out of the case when installing the outer bearing.


The second tool is a homemade spanner wrench for tuning the posi unit. I took an old lower control arm shaft I had laying around, welded a 1/2'' plate to the end and then welded two bolts to it. The two bolts fit into two of the holes on the posi case, which allows you to turn it with extra leverage. I coated the end of it in some black rubber I had laying around - it prevents me from accidentally scratching my posi case when working on it.


Don't know what the motorcycle part is, but here is how it turned out...


Here is my front hub...


I keep getting runs in my parts...I don't know what to do anymore. If I apply to little powder, then there is not enough coverage. If I apply too much powder, Then the powder runs...I can't win. I think it may be the powder I got from my powdercoater...I never had this problem with the eastwood powder that came in there kit. The first part turned out great. The hub on the other hand turned out crappy the first go around. There were runs everywhere...I took it back down to bare metal and coated it again, this time making sure not to apply too much powder. No runs this time, but the powder coverage was pretty light in some areas...I CAN'T WIN:huh:
NO MORE RUNS! After talking to my powdercoater today, he gave me some tips on preventing runs...plain and simple - don't apply too much powder, and hold the goun much farther away and let the powder attract to the part. I also pulled the pitman arm out of the oven 1/3 of the way through the cring process and applied a second light mist turned out great!

I removed this from the chassis and redid it...I didn't like the look of it, but its perfect now. Its the front right steering knuckle.


And here is an extra pitman arm I had laying around...



It took a really long time for one rotor, but it was worth it in the end. I now have just 3 more to go:bang

I want to mention one other thing - this color scheme of black, yellow and some gray was originally taken from a picture over on CF...I liked it so much, I just had to use it as a baseline.
Okay, here's another update. I've been working my butt off trying to get the front suspension finished so I can just focus on the rear suspension. Here's how I rebuilt the front bearings...

I bought myself new CR seals and SKF bearings from a local bearing house. SKF has been around forever and are known for quality, even if the bearings do say Mexico on them. Timkens are also good quality bearings, I bought what the guy had in stock. Whatever you do, don't buy the cheap chinese no name isn't worth it. My bearings all came in carded boxes, oiled and in their own sealed bags...all quality bearing manufacturers do this. I used a bearing packer to grease them. I use mobil 1 synthetic grease.


Next thing I did was remove the powdercoat from where the oil seal runs on the spindle (my powdercoater accidentally did this). It should be nice and smooth. You'll notice that mine is pitted in some areas - I am going to try and use these spindles...and if the seals end up not sealing in the future, I will replace them. I'm not too worried as this is the front suspension and it is easy to work on...not like the rear bearings which are pressed on.


Next use some very fine sandpaper to clean up the spindles...


Clean the spindle nut and washer with brake cleaner. The next thing you want to do is take your packed inner bearing, place it in the hub and then install the oil seal. Grease the oil seal before installing. Then take some grease and fill the hub until it is about 80% full.


Then place your outer bearing in the hub. Lightly grease the spindle on the car and install the hub. Install the washer and nut. You now need to set the bearings for the minimum amount of play. Using a pair of pipe grips, tighten the nut while rotating the hub in the forward motion. You will feel it bottom out - when It bottoms out, tighten it a tiny bit more and then back off until loose. Do this a couple of times to seat the grease and bearings. Now, using your bare hands, turn the hub like it is rotating forward and hand tighten the nut, then back off till it aligns with the cotter pin hole. Insert the cotter pin and install the dust cap. That's all there is too it. I removed the powder coat from the inside of my rotor hats and the front of the hubs - this will help from messing with the rotor runout, which can be seen here in this video I made.



I need to get myself some shim stock so I can reduce the runout...its pretty high right now, which can be seen in the video.