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Old 13th-June-2012, 07:33 PM   #1
rquad
 
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1974 Nova LS2 Project

I'm still in shock that this is really happening, but the time has come for me to restore my Nova. This is my *first* car, purchased over 30 years ago, and titled to me ever since. It has been sitting untouched at the edge of the woods under a tarp for about 15 years.

I consider few things set in stone as far as how this project will go, but I've already ordered a complete LS2 dropout engine/tranny/computer package from an '06 GTO, so there's no doubt about what will provide motivation. This is a 400HP/400TQ setup for those not in the know.

I intend to put in a Strange rear with 3.73 gears, have the seats reupholstered, get a full complement of modern gauges, and then drive it. There are tons of other parts and pieces that will have to be fixed or replaced along the way, and paint will likely wait until another day.

My goal is a car that I can drive daily if I wanted to, that my wife can drive safely in the rain, and transportation that I won't be afraid to take on long vacations if I so choose. Oh, and something that throws your head back in the seat when you punch it!

I expect this to be a fairly long-running thread, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

I would like to respectfully ask one thing of anyone who chooses to comment on this thread: I'll have family, friends, and my children looking on. So, please nix the foul and off-color comments. Thanks in advance for this.

Without further rambling, here is the first "before" photo in which I take the tarp off the car to see what's hiding underneath...



"Not bad", I'm thinking to myself. Fifteen years of neglect could have been much more cruel. And, yes, that's a monster hood scoop on the hood. The hood is original--I ordered the scoop, cut a hole in the hood, riveted the scoop on, then had the scoop painted to match the car. There used to be a black metal screen in the front part of the scoop with a gold Chevy emblem in the middle.

Now, a peek at the back of the car...



Dirty as a pig pen, but I'm still thinking she held up pretty good for being stored outdoors. The rear fin lost its paint, but it was done with a rattle can, so we can't expect it to last like the real stuff. That fin came off an old 70's station wagon--my dad and I adapted it to the car and painted it.

This car is what I drove from age 16 - 18. Minus the dirt and ugliness, this is how the car looked while it was my daily driver.

OK, now a shot of the rear wheel and tire...



No air in the tire, so she's sitting flat on the ground. Those are genuine Centerline spun aluminum racing wheels. As far as I know they were the first such set to hit the streets in my whole city. Imitators showed up quickly, and lots of cars sported so-called "centerline" wheels, but mine were the real thing. I have 14x7's on the front and 15x8.5's on the back. For now, I plan on keeping the wheels, but the tires will obviously have to be replaced even though they will actually hold air.

Now, for what's under the hood...



That's a mostly stock 350 with 4 barrel Rochester. I stripped off all the emissions equipment, added headers and dual exhaust, plastered on some chrome and hose covers, and stuck a used Crane Fireball cam in it. From the factory, these engines were rated at 180HP. I figure I was pushing 250HP at the most--maybe less. It really was mostly a 'show' car versus a 'go' car. But I loved it.

And then I made the mistake of peeling back the vinyl from the roof...



I had two thoughts after seeing the damage: 1) I wanted to show the world how a grown man should cry, and 2) I was ready to throw this thing in the boneyard and go buy a new Camaro SS.

Where do we go from here? See my next post.
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Old 13th-June-2012, 09:55 PM   #2
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That roof can be fixed. But if you decide to scrap the car, I'm sure I can find room for that LS!
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Old 13th-June-2012, 10:06 PM   #3
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Coming Home

The Nova has been sitting at our rental house several miles away. Here she comes on the tow truck to my house...



Down she goes....



That's no tarp covering the window--that's the vinyl roof!

Here's a shot of the front and front-underside of the car...



What's interesting about the above photo is the radiator air scoop. It's kind of hard to tell because of the dirt and faded paint, but I had painted a red line at the bottom of the air scoop, and put 4 white fangs around the 'mouth'. You could only see this if you were looking under the car, or if your car was topping a hill facing me at the same time I was topping the hill. If possible, I'm going to retain this 'feature'.

Below, the car is in its temporary new home...



The original plan was to keep the car in the garage, and to roll it in and out as needed. However, the tow truck driver found the rear brakes to be locked up. He had to push the car into position with his hydraulics, and it is going to sit exactly where it is until I get the brakes unlocked.

I tried to take the rear wheels off to see what was up with the brakes, but the lug nuts were frozen solid. I sprayed them with WD-40, and I'm letting them sit a day or two. I need to buy an impact wrench for my air compressor to get the lugs off. I kind of expect to break some studs in the process.

Here's a couple of pictures of the roof damage...





The roof is the worst part of the car. I fretted and fretted (that's a southern word, for you Yanks) over the roof. Do I keep the car? Do I try to repair the roof on my own with panels? Do I hire a pro? Do I try to find a donor car?

For the answers to these and other questions, please stay tuned.
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Old 13th-June-2012, 10:09 PM   #4
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I know that you are at the "crossroads" now but, if you decide to part ways with your Nova, I would STRONGLY suggest keep pluging at it. It may seem daunting now but the pay-off will be worthwile....
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Old 13th-June-2012, 10:59 PM   #5
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Fix it !
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Old 14th-June-2012, 12:11 AM   #6
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glad to see you started a thread man i wish i could throw the cash at a drop out engine like that oh well. maybe one day....
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Old 14th-June-2012, 07:48 AM   #7
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Dollars

One thing I forgot to do in the first two posts is give a running account of how much this project will cost in terms of time and money. I need to keep up with the money for budgeting purposes, and I'm sure plenty of folks will want to know how much the various components cost. I'm also curious to find out just how many hours I end up with in this thing.

Parts & labor purchased so far:
------------------------------------
$160 - front bench seat that needs to be re-upholstered
$5600 - complete dropout LS2 drivetrain, delivery included
$115 - towing the car to my house (26 miles)
------------------------------------
$5875 total to date

As Craig alluded to, that's a chunk of change for the dropout assembly. I saw some for more, some for less, depending on the setup. For reference, a brand new LS3 and brand new 4L60E from GM with wiring harness, and adding in accessories and shipping was going to be in the neighborhood of $12k. I was seriously considering this, but figured a low-mileage used setup would be just as good for about $7k less. I looked into building out an LS setup from a cheaper truck-based engine, but after you add up all the parts to get anywhere near the 400HP mark, it came out to more than I paid for this dropout (based on a late model, low mileage truck engine). Yes, I could have gone cheaper if I started with a 5.3 and built up from there, but some driving factors in this decision are that I wanted to minimize my labor by getting a package that already worked together and required minimal assembly, I really preferred a low-mile package, and I really wanted to make fairly good power out of the box. So, yes, five grand is big money, but when you don't waste your money on new cars, big houses, electronic doo-dads, Starbucks, and a hundred other UN-necessities, you get to apply that hard-earned cash to other areas. For you younger folks, I hope you listen to those words of wisdom from an old fogey. Heck, I've never even paid for cable TV! I don't feel bad at all about dropping a chunk on an LS2!

*** EDIT ***
That bit about how to spend/save your money might have come off too harsh--not intended. It took me *years* to get to the place where I could start this project. I know exactly what it's like not to have free cash to spend, so I hope no one is offended by my opinions. We all do what we can, when we can.
*** END EDIT ***

BTW, that was the cheapest price I found on an LS2. One other setup I found locally was going to cost $7k if I picked it up from the boneyard myself. These engines are in demand, and the part-picker people know it.

...I guess that turned into a soapbox. Time to get off it...

How much do I suspect my project will cost? Absolutely no way will it be less than $10k before I can drive it--and that's with no body work or paint. I could hit $12 - $15k without paint. Those numbers are for lots of new parts, and doing as much of this myself as possible. Whopping big numbers, but the reality is that cars ain't cheap.

Labor so far (these are *rough* numbers)...
----------------------------------------------------
1 hour - Research to find a bench seat
2 hours - researching shipping carriers for bench seat
1 hour - coordinating purchase and shipping of bench seat
40 hours - researching engines
1 hour - coordinating purchase of engine package
1 hour - researching what to do about rusted roof
-----------------------------------------------------
46 hours total

The 40 hours of engine research may be a bit low - I didn't actually clock the time. This includes my original plan to have a custom-built 6-71 supercharged engine, in which I was doing lots of parts research. Also included in this is the time I spent narrowing down exactly what kind of engine package I wanted, locating such package, and snagging it before someone else did. Given all the different possibilities I went through, I wouldn't be surprised if I spent 80 hours on this. Someone who knew *exactly* what they wanted up front could do this 10x faster.
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Old 14th-June-2012, 10:40 PM   #8
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Deconstruction Begins

This post covers two days, and brings the work up to date. Progress is very slow because I'm dividing my time between family, the project, and dealing with pictures and documentation of the process. I work a full time job as well, so I only have the evenings available. In addition, we have a renovation project going on that chews up all available Saturday time. But still, we move forward...

First, the answer to the question about the roof and what we're going to do with the car. After a frantic search for information, I found someone right under my nose (where I work) that has the experience to do a roof replacement, has his own shop, has the experience to do the job, and won't charge three arms and four legs for his trouble. On the same day I found him, I also found a replacement roof (via a tip from Ryan74 here on this site). Put all this together and I see it as nothing short of a miracle. So, the answer is to replace the roof, keep the car, and keep moving with the project.

Now, I have three initial goals:
1) Get the old engine/tranny out so the new stuff can go in
2) Get the wheels off so I can reseal the one rear tire that lost its bead, which will let me unlock the rear brakes and be able to roll the car in and out of the garage
3) Get the roof replaced

I started looking into air-operated impact wrenches to get the lug nuts off. I have an air compressor, so I only need the wrench.

Then, I got to thinking that maybe if I tried my 1/2" drive socket instead of the tire iron that came with the car, maybe I could save myself the hundred or so a quality air wrench would cost. So, I tried it. I put as much pressure as I dared on the 12-point socket, wishing all the while I had a good 6-point set in the larger sizes. I could not get the nuts to budge. So, we're back to spending money on another tool, and moving on to the engine removal.

Right off the bat I was in for a surprise. The area between the battery, alternator and passenger header was full of leaves. I don't mean covered in leaves, I mean *full* of leaves. Here's a photo of about a third or maybe half of the leaves I pulled out of that one little section of the engine compartment...



After I pulled out the battery, we got at least that many more leaves out from behind the battery area and up into the fender space. I was--and still am--mystified by this. The hood has remained closed and there was a tarp over the car. I can only guess that some sort of animal built a cozy little nest in there. There's no way the leaves could have blown in and gotten that packed.

We did have another nasty little surprise within the leaves. There was a colony of small black ants taking up residence in the leaves. I had to carefully pull everything out, watching to make sure the little pests didn't get on me and bite me. At least I was successful in that.

I wasn't at all surprised to see the battery tray rusted away...



But, under the battery tray I found that the inner fender had rusted through as well. I'm not sure if this can be repaired or if it will have to be replaced. I'll let the guy who replaces the roof have a look and make a recommendation. Either way, more $$.

Another minor issue was hiding behind the leaves. The passenger side headlight wires (some of them) were severed. It's not at all obvious how to put them back together. I'm probably going to have to try to find a shop manual to sort this out.

Well, right off the bat I knew we needed to get organized as we started pulling off parts. We're labeling parts with masking tape, and some of them are being marked on the backside with Sharpie marker. The screws, bolts, nuts, and washers are going into clear plastic bags by group, also labeled. Here's a sample...



You can see everything in action in the above photo: bottom of part marked with Sharpie, bolts in a bag, and masking tape on the bag that indicates what the parts are for. We've also decided on a system to use "D-" in front of driver-side parts and "P-" in front of passenger parts. We'll use an arrow to point toward the front of the car where we need to remember orientation. Markings will only be on the non-visible portion of a part, or we will use masking tape if marking doesn't make sense for a particular part.

BTW, "we" means myself, my wife, sometimes my son, and perhaps on occasion my daughters. This is a family project even though I'll be doing the heavy lifting--literally and figuratively. My wife really encouraged me to "make this happen" when I was seriously giving up after seeing the roof damage.

After getting the leaves out of the way, I next needed to remove the radiator, fan shroud, and A/C compressor to expose the engine. These were all a challenge in one way or another, but nowhere near the hardest thing I've tackled.

The A/C system had long ago leaked out all the R-12. But to be safe, I pulled the refill caps and stuck a screwdriver on the release valve to make sure there was no pressure in the system. Make sure you take this step when dismantling A/C. Also, remember that legally you would have to get someone to capture any remaining refrigerant for you. Anyway, I pulled the wires from the compressor (there's an extra one in the back), got all the bolts off, unhooked the hoses, and pulled the monster out.

Below is where I pulled the A/C hoses out of what I *think* is called the "dryer". This is just in front of what people call the "suitcase"...



These photos are not just to show off the project to people on this forum, or to help others do the same job--I need these pictures to document where things go so that I can get them put back together properly.

To get the radiator out, we had to take off the top radiator support first. It is held on by three bolts in front, and by two bolts in back that also hold the fan shroud in place. The shroud is also held in place by two clips on the bottom--you just pull to release it from the clips. But then I couldn't get the shroud out because the fan interfered. The radiator would have to come out first.

The radiator held its own challenges. The petcock "T" broke loose, so we couldn't drain the radiator. I had to pull off the bottom radiator hose and drain the anti-freeze. Then I pulled out the transmission lines and the top hose. Then we got the radiator out, and finally the shroud.

There were a few hoses remaining in the way. I yanked the hose from the top of the water pump to the firewall (presumably the heater hose). Then I snagged loose two hoses from the fuel pump, both of which were rubber with the old pinch clips holding them in place.

After getting the A/C and radiator out, I got tired of having the hood in the way, so we pulled it off, along with the hinge assemblies. And, yes, I marked both the hood and fenders where all the pieces went so that hopefully I won't have too much trouble with realignment.

Here she is with the hood and all of the previoiusly mentioned parts out of the way...



I *think* at this point I only have to unbolt the tranny from the engine, and break loose the motor mounts in order to pull the engine out. PLEASE someone pipe in if there's something else I need to take apart before attempting to lift the engine. Keep in mind that I'm trying to keep the engine and all accessories together as a unit--I think I'll have a better chance of selling the package that way.

That's where we stopped for the day. We have a birthday party taking up Friday night, then there's the all-day Saturday renovation. It's going to be Sunday afternoon before I get another shot at any more work. Maybe by then I can have the impact wrench in hand and see if I can make some progress on the wheels.

In the mean time, we had some new parts come in. See my next post to find out what's in the garage.
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Old 15th-June-2012, 07:57 AM   #9
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First new parts

I'm ordering some parts, and they are starting to arrive. First, the donor roof...



This is the shot off ebay before it is cut out of the donor car. It's coming with the front support pillars and sail panels. Lots of surface rust, but it's supposed to be sold other than that. This part is coming in from the Carolina's. I got it for $400 + $187 shipping. $60 of that cost was for residential service, which is a rip-off, but what are you going to do? Not real thrilled with paying that much when I could probably get a full donor car for a grand or less, but I don't have any place to put a donor car. In any case, it's done - the money's spent and the roof is on the way.

The big news is the drivetrain. I admit up front that these next photos are teasers, so no whining. Here's the LS2 on the shipping crate...



...and here's the tranny on its crate...



I know, I know - you can barely see anything because of the shrink wrap. But, that's the way it sits until I'm ready to start working it into place.

I was surprised by how compact the engine is. I was expecting something bulkier. That little shrink-wrap package is the full engine from intake to oil pan, including the full drive system with all accessories (including A/C) attached. And the tranny looks positively tiny.

I'm hoping to realize some weight savings with this engine over the factory setup. The LS2 is all aluminum--including the block. Of note is that the new A/C compressor and alternator are visibly smaller than the stock units, so i'm getting some savings there as well as from the engine itself. I think I read somewhere that it only weighs 390 lbs, but I don't know if that figure was accurate or what all was included in the weigh-in. Whatever it weighs, it's got to be less than the full-iron mouse that's coming out.

I was disappointed to find that the valve covers didn't come with the engine. I was told this was a *complete* dropout package. I'm going to call Reitman today and see what they say about it. Otherwise, however, it came with the air sensor (MAP/MAF/MAS ???), and the electronic gas pedal assembly. I haven't peeked, but the full wiring harness and computer should be there as well.

My parts list and dollar count now looks like this...

$160 - Bench seat
$5600 - engine/tranny/harness
$115 - towing
$587 - new roof (parts only)
-----
$6462 total as of 6/14/12

Before I can attempt to put the engine in I'll have to buy a new oil pan. I was going to go with the one from Autokraft because I have heard good things about fitment. For some reason I thought their pan was under $200. But, I just went to their site again recently and saw it was $400! I don't know if they changed the price, or if I just got it wrong to start with. In any case, I did some research and couldn't find a better price for a pan with the proper dimensions. However, I found that Holley makes a pan for the same money that has a much smoother and more professional appearance. So, I'll be going with the Holley.

I'll also have to get the conversion motor mounts. Again, Autokraft has a reputation for good fitment, but they want $175 for their conversion kit. Granted, this includes urethane pads, which are expensive but known for good quality. I checked around again, and found that I could beat the price by going with TransDapt (a Hooker subsidiary), but not with the urethane pads. So, I have a question--what will the "rattle factor" be if I go with solid mounts (which are about half the urethane price)? Would that be shooting myself in the foot, and should I go ahead and pop the extra dough for the good stuff? I have no experience in this area.

I'll also have to buy the air filter assembly before the engine can be switched on. I have no idea what this will cost. Then there's the re-programming of the computer, which is another hundred at minimum. I don't know if the engine will run without the reprogramming or not. In any case, I'm looking at another $700 absolute minimum to have the engine in place. That doesn't include fuel tank work and high pressure fuel pump.

Money, money, money. It sure does take a chunk to make all this happen.

Here are the hours to date...

1 hour - Research to find a bench seat
2 hours - researching shipping carriers for bench seat
1 hour - coordinating purchase and shipping of bench seat
40 hours - researching engines
1 hour - coordinating purchase of engine package
1 hour - researching what to do about rusted roof
4 hours - deconstruction of engine compartment and hood assembly
-----------------------------------------------------
50 hours total as of 6/14/12

Next, we try to figure out how to unbolt the tranny, and maybe break loose those lug nuts. Stay tuned.
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Old 15th-June-2012, 12:56 PM   #10
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engine

I spoke with the guys at Reitman about the missnig fuel rail covers (I've been incorrectly calling them valve covers). They said the engine only came in with one, so they left it off. They are supposed to scrounge around and try to find me some more. If they pull this off, I am going to be incredibly pleased. 'A' for effort so far.
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Old 15th-June-2012, 12:57 PM   #11
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Get yourself a can of PB blaster for those lug nuts. WD40 sucks as a penetrant.

Chances are the lug nuts are corroded to the aluminum wheels more so than rusted to the wheel studs. Aluminum and steal can corrode together and stick like glue. Don't be surprised if the wheels are stuck on even after you get the lug nuts off.

Good luck with your project.
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Old 15th-June-2012, 01:02 PM   #12
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hood dreaming

So, I've been doing a little dreaming about what to do with the hood. It will likely be weeks (or months??!!) before I get to body/finish work, but I gotta dream.

The big hood scoop is definitely on its way out. I loved it, I still think it's cool, but I'm older now and the whole theme of the car is going to be a notch less outrageous. Same reason I decided against a 6-71 through the hood.

Here's what I have in mind: Know what a 68/69 GTO hood looks like? Look it up if you don't. That's the general picture I have in my head. I'll search around to see if there are any scoops like that I could bolt on, but what I'm really thinking is to custom-make my own. Two long bullet-shaped scoops, fully functional, ducting cold air down to the intake that will sit just behind and aside of the radiator.

Can you envison it? One-of-a-kind, I bet.

Whachathink?
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Old 15th-June-2012, 03:14 PM   #13
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Old 15th-June-2012, 03:57 PM   #14
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Please be careful with anti-freeze. Just a few drops can poison a cat....a little more will kill a dog.

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Old 16th-June-2012, 10:11 PM   #15
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best penetrant out there is called kroil oil. We use it and it works when everything else failed.
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