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25 Low-Buck Tech Tips - Chevrolet Parts Guide
To Help you Build,Fix, Detail, And Style Your Ride
Feb 7, 2007
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25 Low-Buck Tech Tips - Chevrolet Parts Guide
OK, you're getting ready to fab a sheetmetal component for your latest project, and it involves drilling a bunch of holes along its perimeter for attaching screws, rivets, or rosette welds. You could grab your drill, extension cord, and a box of drill bits. But, in the time it'll take just to grab a bit, find the extension cord, and chuck up the drill, you'd have been well on your way to being finished with the chore. These handy tools are available in a myriad of places (we got ours from the Eastwood Company, www.eastwoodco.com). They are usually equipped with a good selection of die diameters so you can punch out an array of hole diameters. This is one handy tool that no fabricator or hobbyist should be without.
So, you need to drill and run a bolt through a piece of round, square, or rectangular tubing. Did you ever think you have a good chance of collapsing the walls of said tube if you over tighten the bolt or use it to hold something that'll generate stress? An easy way to alleviate the problem is to sleeve the hole with an appropriately sized piece of tubing. Drill the hole to match the desired tubing O.D., tap it into place, and use a washer with an I.D. that matches that of the sleeve/tube, and run your bolt through the tube. This little trick will strengthen your mounting point greatly, and it only takes a couple more minutes to complete.
Here's a handy tool we'd never be without in our home fab shop-a bead roller. It is used so often in the course of our fabrication and restoration work that we wonder how we ever got along without it. This one was purchased from the Eastwood Company (800/343-9353, www.eastwoodco.com). The roller not only makes beads for strengthening sheetmetal, but acts as a shear and a flanging tool, as well. With one of these babies and a little practice, you'll be well on your way to fabricator heaven. Here's a hint: When rolling a bead, always start from the center of the panel and work your way out to the edges. If you don't, you'll stretch and bow the sheet, rendering it useless. Believe me, I learned the hard way.
Here's another tip we learned the hard way. Whenever you're welding a piece of tubing that'll be capped by another piece of metal at both ends (effectively sealing it off), always drill a small vent hole somewhere in the tubing. As you weld, the heat causes the air trapped inside the tube to expand, and there's a good chance that at the point of the final section of bead, the pressure of the super-heated air will be great enough to blow the weld out-sometimes with enough force to shoot a small bit of molten metal your way.
To coincide with the detail suggestions, you can finally take the time to send out the parts that you've wanted to get chrome plated or powdercoated. Whether or not you are going for an all-out show car, a little splash of the shiny stuff can really make a difference when used tastefully. Try highlighting that custom little bracket with some chrome, or powdercoat some suspension pieces for better finish durability. You can really start to set off your car and make it noticeable with some simple planning and not a lot of money.
You can get independent oiling systems for a turbocharged or supercharged car, ranging from exotic dry sumps to self-contained oiling systems that work independently of the engine oil. We found one that Granatelli Motor Sports (805/486-6644, www.granatellimotorsports.com) installs without altering the oil pan or other components of the engine oiling system, and keeping turbo or supercharger heat from the crankcase. There are numerous benefits to a system such as this that make it worthy of consideration, not the least of which is extended engine and charger life.
We don't think we could count the number of classic cars, both original and hot-rodded, that we've seen with an improperly working or broken gas gauge. We know it's a pain to drop that dirty old gas tank down and see what's going on. We spoke to Ross Ortman of Dakota Digital (800/593-4160, www.dakotadigital.com) and he says the most common reasons a stock sending unit reads wrong, or not at all, are that they may be rusty and stuck, or there is a bad ground. Many old cars relied on the tank touching the body of the car for a ground connection, which just ain't cuttin' it. For many updated cars, the biggest problem is the lack of attention given to the calibration instructions provided with the new gauges or sending unit. If you don't have the time to do it right the first time, when will you have the time to fix it? The next issue would be having a non-compatible gauge and sending unit combo. The bottom line is to talk to the manufacturers to make sure everything is compatible, and then to get off the couch and follow the instructions.
Even a purely stock, older car should have an HEI or some other form of electronic ignition. They range from "drop-in" assemblies to the more complicated models, most of which are fairly easy to install. What you get is less maintenance and great drivability. Some can be installed to look like a vintage distributor; others are readily recognizable as upgrades. Of course, while doing that, upgrade the wiring and plugs, too. When it comes to a manufacturer, take your pick. Just by flipping through the pages of SC, you're bound to find dozens of ignition companies with an application for you.
We all love 'em, but can't always afford 'em. We're talkin' about new brakes. Any one of us would love to have an awesome set of six-piston 13-inch rotors sitting behind our rims. The problem for most of us is we either have to pick rims or brakes, and of course, we're going to pick rims. One of the things that we hate about throwing a new set of rims over an old set of brakes is rusted, oxidized calipers and drums standing out more than ever. Some people try to solve the problem by spray-painting the old calipers and drums, but it doesn't take long before the paint chips or melts off. That's why Dupli-Color (800/247-3270, www.duplicolor.com) offers an Andrew Jackson fix with their High Performance Caliper Paint Kit. The Caliper Paint Kit is applied with a brush, so there's no need to remove the calipers before painting. Everything you need is included: Caliper Cleaner, stir stick, paintbrush, masking tape, and complete instruction book. The Caliper Paint features Ceramic Resins for maximum heat dissipation and it won't blister, flake, crack, or peel, and is available in several colors.
The engine bay of your car has all kinds of extremes going on all the time, and for those of you trying to keep up the appearance of your ride, this means wear and tear. Things under the hood can get hotter than a two-dollar gun and this can range from paint flaking, the burning off of heads, manifolds, and radiator fluids spilling and eating paint. While that cold wind's a-blowin' this winter, spend some time leaning on the fender cleaning and re-detailing your engine compartment. Places like the Eastwood Company (800/343-9353, www.eastwoodco.com) have some excellent products, like its Under Hood Detailing Kit.
Changing tire and wheel sizes affects the accuracy of the speedometer. Aftermarket gauges come with calibration instructions, and if not, call the manufacturer for help. Factory gauges are calibrated a number of ways, depending on the year of the car. There are shops that specialize in this, and there are suppliers in Super Chevy who can help. Don't be caught wrong on your speed.
We all love power and we all love money. Unfortunately, to get power it costs money, which not everyone has. But if you're looking for straight-out-of-the-gate, bang-for-your-buck power, it's hard to beat a nitrous system. One company that offers a variety of kits for TBI, TPI, LT1, and LS1 motors is Nitrous Works (706/864-8544, www.barrygrant.com). For a minimal amount of money, users can hit a button and instantly gain anywhere from 50 to 175 hp, depending on which kit you order. The Nitrous Works systems are compatible with OEM engine components and don't require any fuel pressure regulators or upgrades, which makes installation much easier.
What's that squeaking noise coming from your right front wheel? Maybe it's nothing, or maybe it's everything. Once upon a time, on a long road trip, one of my dust caps fell off of my '59. It didn't take long before the bearings dried out and I was in real trouble. To make a long story short, I spent the night in the middle of nowhere while waiting for a set of ball bearings to be overnighted out to me, and that ain't cheap! First off, if you're driving around on ball bearings, get rid of them and convert over to roller bearings. When was the last time you checked and re-packed your bearings? If you can't remember, then maybe it's time to do it. There is no need get both hands covered in grease, either. At any tool hut worth its salt, they should have a handy bearing packing tool. For around $20, how can you pass it up? While you have your drums pulled off, save yourself some piece of mind and check on those wheel cylinders. You may think you're stopping on all four drums, but only a closer inspection will prove that. Make sure you have no leaks, and if you do, replace them. Bearings and wheel cylinders are not expensive at all, and with your life depending on them, it's worth a look.
For Fourth-Gen Camaros, there's not a lot a whole lot going on as far as the exterior. There isn't a lot of trim all over it, detailed bumpers, or big inserts; therefore there aren't a whole lot of things to refine. One thing you can do is check out RK Sport (800/214-8030, www.rksport.com) and Street Trends (760/929-4747, www.streettrends.com). They offer such exterior detail items as clear corner turn signals, to replace those bright yellow markers, and clear side marker lights for the rear bumper. They also offer other exterior pieces to aid in your quest, starting with a new mesh or billet grille in the front and new hood inserts to match. Another area that can give your Camaro a unique look is replacing the OEM Z28 or Camaro badges with a set of Carbon fiber badges, or other various color badges from RK and Street Trends.
When hot rodders start thinking about suspension for their cars, stance is the first thing that comes to mind. It's all about dropping the car down, installing airbags, drop springs, drop spindles, and so on. Unless you bought new control arms up front, odds are the A-arm bushings are the same as the ones that Chevrolet popped in. One overlooked aspect of setting up a suspension is rebuilding the frontend. Hot Rodders would much rather jump ahead and get straight to something exciting, like altering the appearance or handling. Yet, the truth is, new bushings are vital to not only a car's handling, but just everyday driving, as well. Take the weekend to install frontend kits from someone like Performance Suspension Technology (877/224-1697, www.p-s-t.com), Energy Suspension (949/361-3935, www.energysuspension.com); Performance Suspension Components (800/572-3768, www.performance suspension.com); Just Suspension (800/872-1548, www.justsuspension.com); or Classic Performance Products (800/522-5004, www.classicperform.com). Each company has different kits, which include lower and upper A-arm bushings, ball joints, tie rod ends, bumpstops, sway bar bushings, and more. The difference felt in the first mile of driving is worth the little money and time spent doing it.
For the average guy, buying a used car usually means it won't be anywhere near perfect. There's going to be rust and oxidation on the weathered paint, bumpers, trim, etc. Unfortunately, one of the last stops on the list is replacing trim, bumpers, and such. Most even hold off on sending out bumpers to be re-chromed until the last minute. On the other hand, there is a quick fix that gets rid of light rust found on bumpers and trim. Simply walk into the utility closet and grab a fine steel wool pad or an SOS pad (which has to have detergent in it, but will work) and walk outside. Dip the pads in water and then use them to scrub the rust off the metal. It's not going to look as good as a rechromed bumper, but you'll be amazed at what a difference it makes.
When cars were built anywhere from 1960 to 1970, the last thing on GM's mind was that 40 years later we would put in high-tech stereos, alarms, headlights, and ignition systems. Therefore, fire caused by inadequate wiring becomes a problem just waiting to happen. To alleviate this, American Autowire (800/482-WIRE, www.americanautowire.com) and other companies offer wiring kits for just about anything. Although it seems like a lot of work, it's better to know that your car is safe with all the high-tech gadgets you want. The least you can do is to go through your ride and check out the wiring. Be especially cautious for wires damaged from burns, insulation melting, failed factory connectors, and firewall plugs. Also check the OEM fuse box to be sure that the terminal connectors haven't been loosened. If you run across any of these issues, be sure to fix them properly; don't use electrical tape and wrap stuff together.
You've been wanting this one for a while, but didn't have time for it. Now that it's winter and your car is up on jackstands, what else are you going to do? A set of good exhaust headers does wonders for punching up the ponies under your hood. So get rid of those little stock headers on your musclecar and ante up with some new ones. It seems that nearly every aftermarket company makes headers. Take a look at these headers from Doug's Headers (800/827-3758, a Pertronix company, www.pertronix.com), but keep in mind there are various other manufacturers, if Doug's doesn't float your boat. They fit perfectly in a First-Gen Camaro, and if you take your time, you should have no trouble clearing your steering box. Having newly coated headers works wonders in temperature control, or a set of shorty headers for the guy who keeps his car in the weeds. Either route you take, a performance gain is guaranteed.
We don't know what's hiding under your hood or how it breathes, but if you're like many Chevy 305 owners, your engine has asthma. While you may think it is ready for the glue factory, there is still hope. We've all seen the commercials on TV where someone is huffing and puffing trying to blow out a match, but they can't, because they can't breathe. There are a lot of engines that run just like that and could stand to use a little life-giving breath. The best way to do this without supercharging your engine is to go with a cold air intake. Simply bringing in air from the hood or up in front of the car can save a suffocating engine and add new power. The easiest way we found was to go with K&N filters (800/760-5319, www.knfilters.com). Take a look at its Web site and see what's available for your ride. You can also call them and see which kit best suits your needs. With a cold air intake on your car running at highway speeds, it's like having a blower. The compressed air being forced in at highway speeds definitely gives you better detonation.
Not satisfied with those bench or bucket seats? There are about a dozen different directions you can go when it comes to redoing the office space in your prized possession. Companies such as Classic Industries (800/854-1280, www.classicindustries.com); Year One (800/932-7663; www.yearone.com); and Ground Up (866/358-2277, www.ss396.com) have a variety of OEM-styled covers for your car. Besides recovering the seats, the foam and even the carpets padding may need replacement. Carpet replacement is fairly simple. Most carpet kits are molded and all you need to do is trim them down to size. If OEM seats and carpet are not your style, with a little imagination and fabrication, most any bucket seat/carpet combo can be custom fit to suit your needs. From mild to wild, or a simple bench to bucket install, an interior upgrade only takes a moderate amount of effort to achieve.
Last but not least, build a car to YOUR liking. Don't put this or that part on just because it's the hot item at the time. Remember, this is your project. You're the one who has to drive, build, admire, and show your ride off, and if you don't like the way the car turns out, odds are you're not only going to enjoy the ownership experience less, but the lifestyle that comes with it, as well. And that's more than half the battle. A good idea would be to put together some kind of plan before you start building your car. Think of what type of look, theme, style, stance, and other odds and ends you want before you pick up the phone and start ordering parts. Once you've designed the concept of your ride in your mind, contact an artist and have them put your vision down on paper. This will give you an accurate idea of what your ride will look like, and furthermore, it will help you to determine what you like and don't like about your ride. Think of it as going over the blueprints of your dream home.
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