The Dead Eagle Flies!
By: Patrick Smith
Automotive Wisdom through the Ages
ďToday if you wanted to take the same sort of risk at Chevrolet, youíd promptly
be fired.Ē Ed Cole describing the enormous venture Chevrolet undertook to create
a new engine body, chassis and electrical system and release it all the same
year, 1955. Hats off to the old ways when car guys actually ran the companies.
Hello readers, I apologize for the delay on the Trans AM special edition revival. The summer has been so busy I havenít been able to sit down and write the details. We left off with that poor old turbo 4.9 V8 dangling on the chains of our engine hoist. Iíll pick up the story from there. Once the engine was out I performed the new parts installation and necessary renovation to get the engine running again.
Those of you just tuning in, this is a 1980 turbo SE trans am I bought in the fall of 1999. You can read the entire story up to now in previous Speed Demon columns.
The water pump install was pretty easy. Youíll spend most of your time scraping the old gasket off the timing cover facing and the pump baffle. I shook the engine around a few times to get the last of the old coolant out of the passages. The original radiator was rebuilt with new fins. It was done with medium fin density which is how the rad was built back in 1980. Newer high density fins give better cooling but doesnít look stock and it really isnít necessary for a good system.
While you have the engine out, do a front brake line installation if it looks rusty. The braided lines rest inside the front control arm cradle and will be a pain to get at with the engine installed. Do it now if you want an easy job. Obviously a front subframe resto would be ideal to perform at the same time. I wanted it on the road right away so I didnít bother with those steps Hey back then, it was just a magazine project car. Bandit TAs were cheap and I wanted a ride by springtime.
The front suspension was pretty tired. Although just 97500 kilometers rolled on the wheels since 1980, there was a broken driver side coil spring and copious grime. The front sway bar bushings were split and dried up and the shocks were dead. I shouldíve rebuilt everything and thatís what I did eventually. Youíll get to read about it in a future installment. I installed Moog coil springs set up for an air conditioned Trans Am and added new sway bar bushing and link kit. The coil springs were cut using the torch and unbolting the lower control arms to remove the pieces. I urge you to use proper coil spring compressing tools or have a professional do the job for you. Thereís lots of energy stored even in broken coils. Holes in the shed roof or your head arenít pretty to look at.
The disc brakes were actually good. The drums however needed a wheel cylinder and an equalizer bar. Oh, the shoes on the passenger side had to be switched around as they had the leading and trailing shoes reversed. Thatíll wear out fast. The entire exhaust system was replaced except for the mufflers. Ironically with a lifetime guarantee, the mufflers were the only things still solid. They may be the oldest living set of Midas Mufflers on the continent. The Y pipe was the major expense here. Consider exploring aftermarket versions that flow better than stock. Also, get aftermarket catalytic converters if you must run something to please the tailpipe sniffers.
Repairing snapped exhaust manifold pipe studs involved buying threaded rod stock and heat treating them via blow torch. A pair of exhaust gaskets went in as well. Next on the list was the oil pan gasket and rear main seal install. You get a gasket set for the pan rails, a black rubber piece for the rear main seal and RTV sealant is used for the front pan piece. Take your time installing and bolt pan up to specs. Another repair I did was changing the solenoid on the starter motor. I kept the old plunger spring and reused it. I didnít change the starter itself. Rebuilt starters wonít last and wonít have the correct part number. Be sure the heat shield is used if yours has one. The engine was reinstalled, new fluids added, all pieces connected and she fired up. The last step was a trip to get a safety certificate and Dead Eagle was on the road. Tune in next time for a complete body and body job, followed by interior rebop and more goodies.