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hrdlydangerous Reader
11/2/11 4:20 p.m.

I'm finally getting around to posting some photos of the build of our Trans Am. I had every intention of making this an active build thread but you all know how that goes. Besides, this is a Challenge build and procrastination is an unwritten rule.

So here's the start of it all on the night my dad and I brought her home.

I found the car on CraigsList with an asking price of $1,500. I emailed the seller and he said that after he posted the ad the car stopped running and had engine trouble. He would accept best offer. We went to see the car and I offered the seller $300. (you gotta' start somewhere, right?) After some back and forth, (and the discovery that the seller didn't have the title) we settled on $600. The seller did eventually get us a title.

Aside from some mis-matched red from a previous accident and broken ground effects, it didn't look too bad in the sunlight... on this side.

The passenger side on the other hand... Oh well, that'll buff out.

So here we were in the winter of 2010 with a non-running mullet machine clogging up a spot in my dad's shop. The first order of business was getting it to run.

We narrowed the no-start, backfiring through the intake problem to the ignition system, not a bad camshaft as the seller thought. After several hours to get to it, we removed the Opti-Spark distributor cap and found carbon tracks between several of the contacts. By this time I was lurking on F-Body forums and looking for deals on any and all parts I could find. I found a gent on the frrax message board by the name of MacIntosh who was selling two Opti-Sparks for $50 plus shipping. We made a deal.

Here's the engine compartment as purchased. The new Opti-Spark got the car in running order.

Here's a shot of the cockpit. The seats were nice but the carpet was shot and the dash was cracked. "R" racing floor mats added 10 HPs, yo.

As soon as it was running we loaded it onto the trailer and took it to an autocross to see just how well (or poorly) it handled. To say we got spanked is an understatement. This thing needed to learn how to dance.

Stay tuned...

hrdlydangerous Reader
11/2/11 4:45 p.m.

This car is HEAVY as built. Running it across the scales of the local scrap yard (insert joke here) revealed an almost 3,500 pound car. We needed to add lightness. First thing to do... Lose the interior.

Since the seats and door panels were nice we put them aside and posted a CraigsList ad for them. They eventually sold for $300 with their friends the rearview morrors and some trim bits. The lightening was far from over, though.

I removed all of the seam sealer from the interior using a high speed wire wheel. I also ground off all of the unused mounting tabs from the interior to give it a less cluttered look.

We took out the front and rear bumper beams and fillers as well as the airbag sensors. The rear bumper skin was kinda' floppy so pops made some aluminum straps that run from the bottom of the bumper to the trunk well to keep it from billowing at speed.

We started the tedious process of removing the undercoating from the bottom. This took WEEKS with a torch and a putty knife.

hrdlydangerous Reader
11/2/11 5:04 p.m.

By now I had been reading about the "Strano setup" and was looking toward the suspension. Problem is that those parts are expensive. From what I had read, the front springs and bar were the biggest piece of the puzzle.

I contacted BMR suspension and bought a pair of their 550lb linear front springs.

I scored a used Strano 35mm front bar from a local autocrosser who sold his F-Body previously.

I found a set of KYB AGX shocks from two different sellers on the njfboa.org forum.

Front wishbone with BMR spring and KYB shock in the background. the little bump on the face of the wishbone had to be ground off to clear the 17"x11" wheels.

For the rear suspension we retained the stock springs and removed a coil. DO NOT do this if you're using the car on the street. The springs will fall out on full droop. I also cut the bump stops off in order to gain tire clearance. This is also a no-no on a street car.

I needed to find an adjustable panhard bar with the newly lowered ride height.

hrdlydangerous Reader
11/2/11 6:10 p.m.

We had half-way painted the underside of our Mustang for the Challenge but for this build I wanted to do some crazy detail work. Step one... size up the task at hand.

We had our work cut out for us.

We took the rear out to clean and paint it. I traded Andy Nelson his 3.73 gear set and carrier for my 2.73 set.

Much better. Note painted caliper brackets and lines.

Beginning to paint the floorpans. I cleaned as best I could with alchohol. I used ten cans of Rustoleum "Sunrise Red" to paint the car. The shop had a red dust on EVERYTHING. Oops.

hrdlydangerous Reader
11/2/11 6:22 p.m.

Driveshaft loop installed over painted-to-look-like-aluminum driveshaft.

It's worth mentioning that while my dad worked on the car during the day, I would go to the shop at night and work from about 10:00PM to 2:00 AM AFTER working a twelve hour day. This, as it turns out was not good for my health. I'll get into that a little later.

We took the control arms off to paint them. While they were off we elongated the lower mounting holes to gain some negative camber. I learned that trick on the frrax.com forum.

The rear back in. By this time I found a Global west adjustable panhard bar on frrax.

From the front. By this time it was early winter 2011. Man does that time fly. We still had a lot to do...

hrdlydangerous Reader
11/2/11 6:37 p.m.

Next up was some wiring eviction. The first thing to do was take the dash out... Easier said than done. What a Berkleying mess. That rubber pad behind the dash was really heavy... and removed with extreme prejudice. While trying to remove the dash the sun-baked dash pad crumbled in my hands leaving a gaping hole between the dash and the windshield.

While I was in there I took out the HVAC stuff

This isn't even all of it. We took out almost 15 pounds of wiring all together.

hrdlydangerous Reader
11/2/11 6:47 p.m.

Being left with a gaping hole in the firewall where the heater core used to reside posed a problem. My dad had a collection of scrap signs and we used an old NJ state inspection sign to make a blockoff. My daughter helped trace the template onto the sign so yes, Mike Guido, child labor was involved in my build too...

I wanted to clean up the engine bay clutter so we moved the ECM to the inside of the car. Pops came up with a really clever wire loom door to make for a neat install...

Javelin SuperDork
11/2/11 6:55 p.m.

Thanks for posting these! I am reading with gusto.

Toyman01 SuperDork
11/2/11 7:01 p.m.

And I am reading with despair. With this kind of work showing up, I don't think I could be an also ran contender.

Outstanding work. Thanks for sharing.

Jay SuperDork
11/2/11 7:05 p.m.
hrdlydangerous wrote:

Berkeley on a stick that's clean! How did you do that?
My non-Challenge-priced cars aren't even a thousandth that clean!

11/2/11 7:41 p.m.

Nice work

Good to see a T/A getting built for the Challenge

LT1s react well to NOS.

hrdlydangerous Reader
11/2/11 8:13 p.m.


Yes they do.

I'll post some more pics/info tomorrow.

Ranger50 Dork
11/2/11 8:33 p.m.


I remember the time I painted the underside of my Mustang, New Ford Grey. I think for 2 weeks after being done, I still was hacking up and out grey boogers. I even primed before painting. I will also say it SUCKS when the car is a short 2' from the ground.

I just can't figure out why people don't paint the underside. It HIDES so much evildoing and adds completeness to a car.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
11/2/11 9:57 p.m.

It's been fun watching you guys climb the ladder onto the podium. Thanks for the behind the scenes.


SyntheticBlinkerFluid Dork
11/2/11 9:58 p.m.

Looks good

hrdlydangerous Reader
11/2/11 11:59 p.m.

Thanks for the kind words everyone. Since it's officially tomorrow and I'm not sleepy, here's some more...

After finishing the underside we directed our focus to the engine compartment. The stock underhood arrangement was very cluttered as you can see in the previous photo. I wanted to neaten it up as well as make it clean. I unbolted the nose from the car as well as the headlight assemblies and radiator to give us some more working room. It may not look like it but there's a lot going on in this photo...

The string taped to the fenders was used by my dad to locate his hood pin brackets. He used scrap sheet metal for the bases and machined the heads off of some bolts for the pins.

The wiper transmission and motor are removed in this shot. Dad would later make a cover for the cowl.

The wiring harness is unclipped and being thinned.

I've begun to paint the shock towers and frame ears.

What you can't see in the picture is that we skinned the stock hood to remove weight.

Here's a closeup of one of the hood pin stands.

The cowl cover made from old Toyota dealership point-of-sale posters. More on those later.

Along the way I purchased a pair of Pacesetter headers from Matt on the njfboa. I also traded him an off road Y pipe in exchange for my stock one. The headers were pretty crusty so I wire wheeled them and painted them with high temp paint...

hrdlydangerous Reader
11/3/11 12:27 a.m.

Here's a shot of the cleaned-up firewall. By now we had taken the A/C compressor out of the car to shed weight. We used a Doorman idler pulley to keep the serpentine belt happy.

I originally wanted to take the engine out of the car to detail it but that just wasn't in the cards so I had to do my painting in stages. First was the red on the shock towers as you've seen. Next came the silver on the engine. I used Rustoleum "stainless steel" paint...

I went back and touched up the silver overspray with black. I painted the pulleys black as well. I was a little OCD on the engine detail. If they were in the forefront then bolts or nuts sitting on a black part got painted silver and vice versa. Check out the valve cover bolts and throttle body.

You can see the bolts-turned-hood pins mounted on the radiator support.

Also notice that on the right of this photo the ABS control unit is missing. That heavy beast had to go... In its place we used an adjustable proportioning valve. We retained the stock lines with some different bends. My dad used his new-favorite-toy sheetmetal brake to make a nifty bracket for it which, as I look, is not in the photo. I'll have to fix that.

hrdlydangerous Reader
11/3/11 12:54 a.m.

Meanwhile, I aquired a free S-10 Blazer from a local family. Yes, I do knock on doors asking people to give me their derelict vehicles. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Now, before you get all jealous let me just say that this truck was the most disgusting vehicle I've ever had the misfortune to sit in. Aside from that, the blown trans and knocking engine sealed its fate to be crushed, but not before I grabbed the wheels and tires and a nifty trans cooler... We made some trans line extensions and mounted the cooler to the radiator support. Like those cool square tubing mounts we made? Ever look at what holds up an "ADT Alarm" sign?

A friend from work at one time he had an '05 Mustang that he added some speed parts to. He's long since sold it. The stock air intake was taking up space in his garage so he gave it to me. We cut the wide end off and used it to go from the MAF sensor to the air filter.

hrdlydangerous Reader
11/3/11 1:01 a.m.

Im putting this here because I like this picture.I think the Mustang looks jealous.

That's all for now. More to come...

Volksrodden Dork
11/3/11 7:01 a.m.

love this build thread

spin_out Reader
11/3/11 7:24 a.m.

BloodyL, I talked to you at The Challenge but did not even begin to connect you with your screen name. We really need name tags with our real and screen names for the big show. I did wear my PCA nametag which, by chance, has both names.

Thanks for the photos. Now I see why we were 5 behind you in the Judging. (Oh, and very cute kid, I'm sure you are proud.)

4cylndrfury SuperDork
11/3/11 7:47 a.m.

I love this thread...Mullet machines are under appreciated I think...they carry some stigmas (mostly well deserved) about weight and reliability - but Ive always thought that under all that useless crap was a pretty mean sports car. Please keep posting, this stuff is great!

pinchvalve SuperDork
11/3/11 8:01 a.m.

Things I am jealous of in this thread:
• The Mustang
• The Trans Am
• The build skill
• The garage
• The lifts
• The cool factor
• The scrounge success rate
• The dedication
• Working with Dad
• Car trailer
• Cool Floor Mats

Things I am not jealous of in this thread
• Impossibly cute daughter (I have one of those)

AutoXR Reader
11/3/11 8:56 a.m.

After seeing this... Yep .. you deserved to win

Congrats - pics don't do it justice.

hrdlydangerous Reader
11/3/11 11:29 a.m.

About the shop; It's my dad's place of business. He used to rent the back two bays to another mechanic. Since that fellow moved on it's now the play room.

It's funny you should mention the scrounge success rate, Pinchvalve. I talked to a lot of people during this build. I'm in sales so I'm not afraid to ask complete strangers for things. If you don't ask, you don't get. The pile of junk I aquired for this build far outweighs what we used.

While we were in the engine compartment we added some new ignition wires. Conveniently the P.O. installed lower heat range spark plugs. We tightened up the gap by .005" and put them back in. We removed the EGR, cruise control, and headlight control relays and wiring. We blocked off the heater lines and used one of the S-10 radiator hoses to eliminate the complex lower hose that came on the car.

On to the exhaust... When I bought the headers I traded for a Y pipe. The plan was to retain the stock muffler for the autocross but we discovered the Y pipe to be pretty badly bent.

My dad had the idea to use header mufflers. I found a pair on eBay for $35 shipped. We used some scrap pipe for extensions and then pops used his new toy to fab up some heat shields to protect the fuel and brake lines.

We slotted the pipe so it would come off easily for the drags.

The rubber hangers (not in this photo) came from an old truck tire sidewall.

Next up interior...

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