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Tony’s Garage: Readers' Tech Questions - May 2014

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Tony Huntimer Apr 25, 2014
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Got a burning tech question? Email Tony Huntimer at camaroperformers@racehome.com

Q. Tony,

I bought '69 Camaro about two years ago and finally noticed that there's no VIN tag on the firewall. There is one on the dash. Where else can I find a VIN number? Is not having the tag on the firewall a problem?

Rafael Otero
Via facebook

A. Rafael,

The tag on your dashboard (visible through the windshield) is your VIN tag. There are two more locations to find your VIN. Both of them are known as “hidden VINs” because they can't be seen without removing parts to read them. The first place you will find one is on the passenger side on top of the firewall. You won't be able to see it without removing the cowl panel, which requires removing the wiper arms. The second hidden VIN is also located on the firewall, this one hidden by the heater box/blower motor box. Not technically tags, these hidden VIN's are stamped directly into the sheetmetal and only contain the last 8 digits of the VIN.


The tag that's supposed to be on your firewall next to your wiper motor is called a cowl tag (aka trim tag). The cowl tag is stamped with production information such as: model year (e.g., 1969), model type (coupe or convertible), assembly plant (VN=Van Nuys or NOR=Norwood), interior trim color and style (standard or deluxe), body color (lower and upper), body production month and week, and trim options. The only other place you may find this information is on the “broadcast sheet.” This sheet was used on the assembly line to make sure all the correct accessories were installed. It was considered garbage, so if the workers at the plant didn't hide it somewhere in the car (e.g., under the rear seat, under the dash, on top of the fuel tank, etc.), it was thrown away by the dealership or by one of the owners between 1969 and today. Needless to say, it would be extremely rare to find a broadcast sheet in your 1969 Camaro. You would almost have better chances of winning the Lotto.

Since your car is missing the cowl tag, it's probably a good idea to confirm that the number on your dashboard matches one of the partial hidden VINs on your car. There's never a good reason as to why a trim tag is missing. It could have been removed and lost during a restoration, but typically it would be removed if a previous owner might have tried to pass the car off as something that it's not (e.g., SS, RS, Z/28, etc.).


Not having the trim tag on your '69 is not a big deal unless it's an SS, RS, or Z/28 and you're trying to sell it to cash in on that value.

There is a service that can reproduce a trim tag for you, but they can only go by the information you give them. They don't have access to the actual records of your vehicle. Look them up online at trimtags.com.

Q. Tony,

Back in 1991, John Hooper wrote a two-part story on the Gibb/Harrell Racer. It was printed in the April issue of the Chevy/Corvette Buyer's Guide and supposedly the May issue if the second part of the article ever saw the light of day. I am fortunate to have obtained the April issue, which has part one, but nowhere have I been able to locate the May 1991 issue.

Do you know of the publication and/or a way to contact John Hooper to see if this was actually printed?

There is an October 1991 Chevy/Corvette Buyer's Guideon eBay that has been there for a long time, so I'm pretty sure the publication was ongoing at least through October of 1991. I am not sure if the article was taken from the source book, but I have my doubts. I am rather of the thinking that he wrote a shortened version compiled from various articles.

Thanks for any help.

La Harpe, Illinois
Via email

A. Ron,

I saw the issues you referred to on eBay. The Chevy/Corvette Buyer's Guidelooks like it was an old Auto Trader-style used car guide/classifieds magazine for Camaros, Corvettes, and other Chevy muscle cars. Unfortunately, these are probably the types of magazines that ended up in the circular file every month.

I checked with my sources and didn't find any contact information on John Hooper or old copies of Chevy/Corvette Buyer's Guide.

If you haven't done so, get on the forum at Camaros.org and put in a request for this information. One or two of the core members and the majority of their standard members there are responsive and have a lot of knowledge on the writers and articles from back then. The same goes for Yenko.net. I bet you'll get some help from one of those two sites.

We can also hit up the readers of Camaro Performersmagazine. If anyone has information to assist Ron, please contact us at camaroperformers@racehome.com or through our Facebook page.

Q. Hey Tony,

I am a loyal subscriber to Camaro Performers magazine and I have a quick question for you about my '97 Z28 convertible, Z4C 30th Anniversary Edition. What are your thoughts on the future value of my car? What would happen to its value if I make modifications to the engine (minor mods to improve performance), interior (seat covers in white/hugger orange leather combo vs. pure white leather), and upgraded wheels and brakes. I know there weren't many Z4C convertibles produced. I value your opinion.


Tom Gore
Via email

A. Tom,

I'm familiar with a car that looks just like yours. I have a GM 30th Anniversary poster of your convertible (probably not your exact car) in an old gas station with other Camaros. According to production numbers, there were 4,533 Z4C 30th Anniversary Edition Camaros. There were only 3,297 Z28 convertibles produced. I'm not aware of how many Z4C convertible Z28s were produced. From past experiences, I can only speculate that your car would be collectible if the production numbers were less than 100 and your car had 20 miles on the odometer.


Now, if it were my car I would make the modifications you mentioned but not make any non-reversible changes. I might even go so far as to obtain some used seats to change the upholstery. I would save all my original parts in a safe place and have fun with my Z4C Anniversary Edition Z28. If I ever found out it was worth a fortune, I would put it all back to stock, sell it, and live the rest of my life with as many Camaros as I could fit in my castle.

Q. Tony,

I have an '80 Berlinetta Camaro with a 350 small-block backed by a four-speed. It's my first car and daily driver. I installed an Edelbrock fuel injection system and an Accel distributor. It is a restoration in progress, and I plan to rewire the car from bumper to bumper even though the harness isn't hacked up. I also plan on refinishing the firewall area at the same time. My issue is that I'm having trouble finding a replacement instrument cluster wiring harness, while the wiring leading to it is available. If you could point me in the direction of finding a harness for my car, that would be great. Otherwise, my mechanic may have to do some wire splicing.

My Camaro also likes to go through rear axle pinion seals. If you know of any solutions please let me know.

Last question: Do you know of a delay wiper system that will fit my Camaro?

Thanks for your help,

Marc McAllister
Ridgeland, Mississippi
Via email

A. Hello Marc,

Thanks for your letter. I noticed that you stated that your Camaro is a restoration in process. Are you removing the Edelbrock fuel injection? Sorry, but I have to point this out and then we'll get to your questions. Restoration is defined as the action of returning something back to its original condition. It sounds like you're upgrading or rebuilding rather than restoring?

You mention the instrument cluster wiring harness, not the harness leading to it. I have to assume that you're talking about the printed circuit panel on the backside of the dash cluster. The printed circuit panel is a couple of sheets of plastic with thin metal strips between them. It was a cheap and fast solution to speed up production on the assembly line. Adding aftermarket gauges usually entails bypassing the panel to tap into the gauge signal or the power wire for the dash lights. I've done both. You or your mechanic will just need to trace the signals and get a wiring schematic to make sure you wire it correctly.

Typically, you would replace your electrical harness if your wiring harness is hacked up, your connectors are broken, the wire insulation is cracking, you've had an electrical fire, or you have an electrical gremlin you can't find. Of course, the best reason is if you want to upgrade to a harness with better quality wire and modern fuse box that uses blade-type ATO fuses and accommodates more aftermarket accessories not supported by the factory harness. American Auto Wire (americanautowire.com) carries their Factory Fit line, which is a great source for replacement reproduction wire harnesses that fit like the factory harnesses and have all the correct connectors. If you're looking to upgrade the system with a late-model fuse box and additional circuits, check out American Auto Wire or Painless Wiring (painlessperformance.com).

Your rear axle pinion seal leak could be going out on a regular basis if the sealing surface on the yoke is worn out (not smooth). It's also possible that the pinion bearing is worn out, allowing the pinion and the yoke to move enough to shorten the life of the seal.

With the rear of your Camaro safely on jack stands and the tires free to rotate, check for play in the pinion bearing by grabbing the rear portion of the driveshaft with both hands and try to move it up and down and side to side. Any visible play should be addressed by a shop that specializes in differentials.

Intermittent wipers on the Camaro were first available in the '77 model year as optional equipment. You can get used original parts for an intermittent system for your '80 from salvage yards that specialize in older cars, like GM Sports Salvage (gmsportssalvage.com). You can find most of the necessary reproduction parts to upgrade a two-speed wiper system to a stock intermittent system from companies like Ground up (ss396.com), National Parts Depot (npdlink.com), Classic Industries (classicindustries.com), Camaro Central (camarocentral.com) Rick's Camaro (rickscamaros.com), or YearOne (yearone.com).

The alternative is to check out the Selecta-Speed wiper kit from Detroit Speed (detroitspeed.com). It has five delay speeds, low speed, and high speed. I had one of their wiper kits in my daily driven '68 Camaro and loved it. The '68 factory wiper had a low speed that had to be turned off and on during light rain, while the high speed was more like "ludicrous speed."


The Detroit Speed Inc. Selecta-Speed wiper system gets two thumbs up!



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