The Mother of All Road Trips!

This is a blog from my happenings on the road. I'm setting this up from a truck stop called Love's in Milan, New Mexico. I got snowed in and am sitting here waiting it out.

2008-12-06
Greetings from somewhere near St Louis, MO. I drove thru the worst snow storm last night from Detroit to Chicago last night, all the while cursing the whole idea of a road trip. I finally made it thru, and shacked up at some cheapo joint right on old Route 66 here near St Louis. Next stop, Tulsa. Thats where I'll finally start seeing some warmer weather, and that's when the fun begins. For now I'm not passing Go, not collecting $200, I'm going directly to warm weather without blinking to look at any frozen historical crap. Onward james!

2008-12-07
Howdy kiddies! This trip got so damn cool once first light hit this morning somewhere around Tulsa. The weather was fine and the road was badass! Route 66 is the coolest friggen road in the world as far as I'm concerned. I'm sitting in a lounge at a KOA campsite drinking beer with the nice couple that own this place, sucking down beers and leeching off their free wifi so I'll keep it short. I just uploaded a ton of pics though, and commented on a few of them. It's been all ups, with one potential serious down. I was cruisinin into Okhlahoma City and suddenly the interior filled with smoke! It smelled like either burning rubber or burning electronics. It was there and gone in a snap of a finger. I pulled off to the side and looked up, down, in, out, and found nothing. That was 400 or so miles ago, so what the fuck?!? We'll see. Till next time...

The pics are here:

2008-12-09
It's been a messed up 24 hours or so since I left that KOA place, lemme tell ya. I slept a couple hours out on a lake near the KOA Kampground for free, right under the stars. I got back on the road and made it to a town called Santa Rosa, NM and had a blowout on the highway. Shredded the rear tire. I walked almost 2 miles back to the town at 5am and waited till 8am when the local garage opened up to scoop my car off the highway. I got off the whole deal pretty cheap though, $50 for a flatbed pickup and $20 for a used tire the guy found at some place another town over. He went and got it, and mounted it for free. That could have been a show stopping expensive incident. The tire is totally mismatched from the other side, but at least it rolls.

All this happened in still high 50's to mid 60's desert temps, which was so nice. There was talk of a snowstorm coming so I got the hell out of there, hoping to drive out of where it was coming. That didn't happen, and to make matters worse I'm dead again and stuck in this tiny little town called Grants, NM. The car started missing and stumbling pretty bad, so I got a new set of plugs and changed them in the auto parts parking lot as the snow storm set in. That didn't fix it, so I partied last night with the locals. We drank cervesa's at the local pub and watched football and I acted like I cared one bit about the game. I'm suspecting a problem with an injector power feed wire, because when it stumbles it feels like one bank drops out, and each bank is powered by it's own power wire. It seems to be better this morning, so I'm gonna hit the icy highway and try to drive out of the snow again, and work on it in better weather, if possible. Wish me luck folks...

UPDATE:It's 5:30 Detroit time (3:30 local) and I'm stuck at a truck stop. I've been here since about 30 minutes after I sent the email this morning. The snowstorm closed most of the roads and freeways and the ones that are open have been stopped dead since morning. I came to this truck stop called 'Love's' and got online and started shopping on LA's craigslist for a tire for the one that I got put on in Santa Rosa. I should be in LA by tomorrow, so if anyone out there has any friends or family out there, or along I40/Route 66 in Arizona that wouldn't mind putting me up on the couch for a few hours, please let me know. Email me back at doug@nostar.net or call me 313-915-4479. I need to take a serious look at this car when I get there, or even sooner. Just as soon as the weather gets decent. I had to pay $4 for 24 hours of Internet use, so I'm trying to get my money's worth. I think it's time to try my luck at the road again though, so buh bye!

P.S. The guy that worked at Ortega's Garage, the tiny garage in the tiny town of Santa Rosa NM, was stationed in the same town in Germany at the same time I was there, and we did the same job (mechanic). Different unit, but same town with the same bars. Small friggen world!

2008-12-10
Greetings from Flagstaff, AZ. This is the last stop before I hit the mighty Mohave Desert, and finally some warm weather. I've got to fix this car before I go any further, though. I drove into Flagstaff last night, and it was cold (20's) but its sunny today with a high of 55, so it's time to start tearin into the engine and see what the f*ck is up. My poor car is in such bad shape right now. It's running on like 4 cylinders or so, with the others coming back in for a second or so constantly. I changed the plugs the other night, but the old ones looked great so I knew that wasn't going to help. At this point it seems to be fuel and not ignition, otherwise there would be a lot of backfiring, which there isn't. It's just like the cylinders are being turned on and off. This could be really bad.

2008-12-11
Last time we talked I had just showed up in this little town called Kingman, AZ. Well now it's time to tell the day after story. This is the kind of night this trip is spoda be about. I said to hell with worrying about that car last night, and proceeded directly to the nearest bar, called Mad Dogs. There I met Bill, owner and proprietor, and native of Pittsburgh. I swear no one out here is actually born and raised here, from what I can tell. So Bill tells me about his wife who is a traveling singer, and used to sing all over Michigan when they lived in Toledo together. He mentioned places like the St Clair Inn and various places in Traverse City.

When that conversation began to get stale, I started talking shit with this tatto ridden dude that looked like he was strung out on everything under the sun. Next thing I know, we ended up at his tattoo parlor at 1am and this photo below was the result:

Click HERE

(Don't close that window yet because theres more. Follow along with this story by clicking the right arrow to browse all of the following pics as I tell the rest of this tale)

After this, we went back to Mad Dog's and closed it down, then I headed out of town to get some solitude. All this human interaction was social overload for me. I found this little gated entrance off Route 66 out in the desert and backed up to the gate, killed the lights, and fired up the Creedance full blast. Very occasionally a car would go by even at 2-4am, so I decided I needed to camoflauge the car to avoid any problems with johnny law. Lucky for me there is tumble weed everywhere out here, so I started stacking tumble weeds all over the car. Then I noticed that the chain on the gate had no padlock on it. *GASP* No Padlock! Well shit, I moved in and called it home. I got rid of all the tumbleweed on my car and pulled it into my new plot. This is how settlers did it in the old days right?

It was getting late and I was pretty wiped at this point, so I started to wind down. 60ish days here, but still 20-30 nights, so i bundled up and snuggled up in the car, occasionally starting it up to get some heat thru the night.

I woke up this morning with a huge puddle of oil all over the floor of the car. Bewildered and still a little drunk I think, I tried to make heads or tales of what the hell was going on. What happened was, I kicked the mechanical oil pressure guage last night and busted the line off the back of it, and every time I started it up to get some heat, it pissed oil all over the inside of the friggen car. So I checked the oil and I mean empty! I hitched a ride to the nearest gas station and bought 4 quarts of oil, then hitched back and it took 3 1/2 quarts! That means it ran dry for at least a little while. The brass compression fitting was already compressed, so I couldn't re attatch the line to the guage out there, so I vice gripped the end of the line to block it off till I got to town. Since it only idled, the residual oil would have been fine thank god, but what a mess.

So here I sit, enjoying my morning coffee at a local truck stop, getting ready for a day of working on the car and doing a thorough cleaning, inside and out. I can only wonder what tomorrow holds for me...

PS: I just remembered what I decided to do last night. I'm a huge MC5 fan, and the recent documentary that no one is supposed to have for legal reasons but everyone (at least everyone in Detroit) has a copy of, shows Michael Davis, the bass player, living in Arizona takin' it easy for all us sinners. He was my favorite of all of the members still alive when the documentary was made. He really was just takin' it easy, hanging out on what appears to be a small ranch and playing in a local bar band in Tuscon Arizona. I'm taking the 8/10 highway back, which is super south and super hot! It goes right thru Tuscon, so I'm gonna seek him out and hang with him if he doesn't call the cops on me for stalking him. If anyone has any more specific info about him than what I have, please let me know.

2008-12-14
"I can only wonder what tomorrow holds for me..."

It's now 2 days after I left ya'll with that statement. I would have let you know what 'tomorrow' held for me last night, except that I spent the night in jail. I was sleeping in my car again out in the middle of the desert and Ponch and John picked me up for DUI and took me directly to jail. I did not pass go, and I did not collect $200. In fact, Needles Auto Wrecking collected $200. By the way, Ponch and John were the 2 cops in CHiPs, and the cops that got me were bonafide CHP's. I kept humming the tune from that show all the way to jail.

I spend 6 hours or so in jail, then they hand me some papers and send me on my way. They open the front door and dump me in a town called Needles. This is a tiny little town in CA right on the borders of both NV and AZ. I see a Dennys sign off in the distance, so I start walking towards it. I'm thinking at this point, my only hope is to find and meet some folks in town that will help me get my car out of impound. It seems that I had an unpaid registration ticket in St Clair Shores and my license was suspended for it, so I wasn't able to get the car out myself. Man things were looking pretty bad at this point.

I get a little ways down the sidewalk and a full size Bronco pulls up with a tiny little lady driving and a guy in the passenger seat. She asks me where I'm headed and I dump the whole story on here in about 1 full breath. Then before she can reply, I offer them $50 to get my car out of impound for me. She tells me to get in, and away we go.

We get to the CHP station, in an attempt to get the cops to release the car to one of them (there needs to be 2 licensed drivers available). A cop comes to the front and takes me to an interrogation room and starts drilling me about how I know these people, and what my plans are, etc. Well, needless to say, we didn't get the release.

I called my buddy Tom that lives near me back home, and asked him if he could go to the courthouse that held the suspension and post the bond. He did, and I got the release later that afternoon. Meanwhile, I spent the whole day with Ruthi and Steve. They took me around town, to a nearby town, to the NV AZ CA border, to name a few. When I got the release, Ruthi took me to Needles Auto Wreckers to pick up the car. I was without my camera until I got to the car, so I didn't get any pics of the day with Ruthi and Steve.

I drove my car back to Ruthi's house to hang out, relax, and try to begin to thank her for everything she did for me. Meanwhile, she cooked me lunch. Steve and her nephew Frank decided to wash and wax my car. I kept pinching myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. Soon, it got dark, so we got a case of Corunna's and had a bonfire in their backyard. Steve cooked dinner. It was scrumptious. I slept over, and got the best night of sleep I've gotten since I left.

I woke up this morning to a dead battery since I left the ignition on all night. I got a jump from Ruthi's Bronco, and somewhat reluctantly departed at about 2pm today. It was kinda hard to leave, one day and night there and I felt like I was leaving home for the first time.

Grateful doesn't begin to describe how much I appreciate what Ruthi and the Gang all did for me. I was trying to think of a way to repay them all and I had a brilliant idea. There are 5 people living in that house, and one of them is a teenage girl, who really loves their computer. They all share it, and do pretty well at it from what I gather, but the teenager's eyes lit up when I told her that I was going to send them another computer when I get home. Most of you all know I always have at least a couple machines to spare, and right now I happened to have a really good, modern fast system collecting dust.

Back on 66 thru the heart of the Mohave desert, I drove into a huge wind/sand storm. I've never been in winds that strong before. They were literally pushing me over, and up against my car a few times when I stopped for some Kodak moments. See the gallery for those moments, like the pics next to the Route 66 symbol on the pavement. Finally, a stop at the Bangkok Cafe right before I hit Barstow concluded the trip for the night. Here I am once again at a truck stop, telling the tale. I wasn't on the road very long today, but it gets dark at 5pm out here. The last part of 66 from here to LA is something I want to see in the daylight, so it's off to make some new friends in Barstow and find some fun to be had. Wish me luck...

As always, the photo gallery includes a ton of new ones from the last 48 hours:

Click HERE

2008-12-16
Alive and well in Lordsburg, NM. It's been so long I forgot where I left off in these muppet news flashes... Ahh, Barstow. Barstow blows, and I don't just mean all the ridiculous wind. Boring ass town with terrible bars. 'Nuff said there. It was really so boring, it seemed impossible to get in trouble. I guess that was a good thing.

I stayed the night in Barstow even though it was only a couple hours from Needles, because it was dark and I wanted to see the final stretch of Route 66 in the daylight, as I heard this was the best part. The deserted remains of once booming town, the sand, the mountains, etc. I got so caught up in the final moments, I stole a San Bernadino County barricade, and stuffed it into my back seat. Then I finally got a chance to take some action photos around one of the route 66 emblems layed on the road. See all the pics. Then I got back to driving and before I knew it...

I kicked Route 66's ass! I made that road my bitch! I made it to the end 2 days ago, and stood on the beach on the other side of LA. Ok who am I kidding. We all know that road actually kinda made me it's bitch, but who's really keeping track right? The point is, I did it from beginning to end, with nothing more than a blowout and a DUI arrest, not to mention a killer tattoo. That's not bad.

I got to LA and gave it about 15 minutes and got the f*ck out of there. The whole town was a parking lot on a Sunday. I immediately headed south on highway 1 thru Long Beach, Huntington beach, etc. I finally made it to San Diego and met up with my old friend from high school, Leah Steece. Leah left Armada like 15 years ago or so and moved to San Diego. I spent the night there and got another much needed night of sleep, the first since Ruthi's place 2 days prior. She planned on showing me Sunny San Diego the next day, but it pissed rain all friggen day the next day so I got the hell out of there and headed east on 8, Florida here I come!

When I left San Diego on 8 East, I went thru the mountains where I hit the edge of the rain storm, and drove right into a huge beautiful rainbow. I was so high up in the mountains it was like it was right over me. As I weaved around the twisty mountain highway, I came up to spots where it seemed like I really did come to the end of the rainbow, it seemed like I could reach out of my window and grab the end of it. I got tons of pics of it, but they don't really do it justice at all. It was so huge and vivid in real life, I've never seen anything like it.

So here I am in Lordsburg, doing laundry, hitting the shower, and getting ready for the next stop. I'm headed to Roswell NM next, to find me some aliens. Beam me up Scotty...

As always, the photo gallery includes a ton of new ones from the last 48 hours:

Click HERE

2008-12-16
Well folks, I hate to say it, but the arrest incident wiped me out. I'm flat busted, so I'm detouring and heading back to Detroit. It's been a hell of a journey, and it's been really sweet wearing shorts and t-shirts for the past few days, but it's time to come home and face the frozen music. I'm gonna miss it down here, but I gotta say frozen or not, I miss home too. I'll be back in a couple of days most likely. Fortunately, Roswell NM is right along the path home, so I'll still get to see it. The only thing I'm missing is Florida, but I'll get home, regroup, and come down before the winter is over, I swear. Florida is where I had probably 6 - 8 stops to visit friends and family, so It's still on, just delayed a couple months tops.

I've got to get outside and build a sail for my car to get me home, so goodbye for now...

2008-12-17
So here I am in Amarillo, TX. I left Roswell, NM last night and jumped back on to the Mighty (mighty friggen cold, that is) Route 66 here in TX. Just like many women, ya always come back to someone or something that kicks your ass, runs you thru the wringer, and bleeds you dry. Here I am, spread eagle and ready for more!

I'm not sure if I mentioned it here or not, but on the photo gallery there is a pic of a Route 66 barricade that I took off the road and tossed into the back seat of my car. When I got to Leah's in Sunny San Diego, I took it out of the car to make room for her and her daughter when we went to get some grub. Of course, I forgot it. Now that I'm back on Route 66, I'm going to try and get 2 this time and make a nice table for my new Downtown loft.

Roswell was nothing special by the way, but as a science geek I wanted to drive thru it. They don't even have any alien crap in the town at all. I think they are sick of the hoopla. I went to a local bar and got to talking with the bartender, and she told me everyone in town knows something extraordinary crashed there back in the day, but no one will ever know what for sure. So thats that.

My plan now is to get my ass home and bust ass for the next month on both the car and all of my paying jobs, and of course follow up on the permanent job offer from Mr. Gasket / DFI in Wixom. I really need to get the new axle with the 3.73 gear installed. Starting out in my car is so hard on the clutch, its like starting in 2nd on most cars. For all of the highway travel its fine, I just never used 6th gear. Stop and go in towns though is just too hard on the clutch since its so steep.

I'm also gonna bust ass on all the paying gigs I have available to make up the money I lost, and prepare for part to of this trip down to Florida and back. Dion, that means your super tube preamp will finally get finished. Johnny, your website will finally get finished. Any gigs out there that are up my any areas of expertise, let me know. If you need some car work in the dead cold that I usually refuse, well guess what. Dougie's unheated ice cold garage with no door is open for business! Computer stuff, electronics, studio recording, etc etc bring it on baby! If you need someone to wipe your old grandpas ass and change diapers, I'm yer man!

If all goes as planned (this plan was made about 10 seconds ago) I'd like to head to Florida on Feb 1st. Lets hope gas stays cheap till then too. January is gonna be an interesting month. Our governments Executive Branch is going to see some historical changes. I personally will be more intimately involved with the Judicial Branch though, with both California and Michigan.

One last thing I almost forgot. I left Deming NM yesterday afternoon en route to Roswell, NM after picking up a Western Union check that Johnny Z sent me for some web work that he was still due me. (Thanks Johnny for getting that out in the middle of the snowstorm in MI, it saved me!). I hit Roswell, hit the local bar as I mentioned, then took a 45 minute cat nap in a truck stop parking lot before heading out on Route 70 en route to Amarillo, TX, where it intersects with Route 66 / I40 again and takes me home. Like a total dumbass, like a complete nincompoop, I decided I had enough fuel to make it to the next gas station along Route 70. I left at about 2:30, and 4:00 came and still no sign of life. It starts chuggin and spittin, and I'm shittin my pants thinking I'm gonna be stranded with just enough money to get home. I was yankin the wheel back n forth trying to splash the last few drops of fuel around, everything I could to stay alive, but finally it totally died. Luckily, after climbing for an hour, I was on a slight downgrade and coasted almost a full mile into, you guessed it, a one gas station town called, umm shit I don't even remember. The car rolled right up to the pump and stopped without me even hitting the brakes. It was 4 am, and the gas station was closed to 5am. I took another little cat nap until they opened, then filled up and away I went!

2008-12-20
Home at last. I rolled into town Thursday night. I woke up Friday morning at Jamies house with my car outside buried in snow. Yipee! Then I get home to a collapsed garage, with my other car inside! Woohoo! Its really good to be home.

The neighbors and I got to tearin the garage door off, so we could get my car out. Once we got inside, we found that the car was holding the garage up. The one truss that was holding the back half up still, had busted off the south side of the garage and one of it's side beams was dug into the roof of the cavalier. we stilted up the truss in a few spots and let the air out of the tires to get the pressure off the roof. Rob cut some of the other busted rafters that were in the way, and we finally got it out. Pretty scary, it kept creaking and snapping as we were taking the load off the top of the car. Heres the pics of the garage:

Garage Pics

BLAHBLAHBLAH

Replacing a Gen 2 small block (LT-1) with a Gen 1 small block in a 4th Generation F-body for street use

Howdy folks. After years of talking about it, I am finally doing the swap. I am dropping a 475hp (estimated) EFI 383 gen 1 small block in my 1994 Firebird Formula. This will be a journal of the whole process, starting with some history and specs of the car and engine. All of the photos I gather along the way are being dumped here until I organize them better.

The Ride

I got the car in about 1998 or so. The back end was crushed pretty bad, and it had an automatic transmission. A year or so after I got it, the trans died, so I decided to convert it to a 6 speed manual. Some months after that I finally got to doing the body work. I cut out all of the bad sheet metal, straightened out the crushed inner wheel well, and welded on a new factory GM quarter panel. There are some photos of that project in my photo gallery HERE

The Plant
I built a 383 small block Chevy engine about 12 years ago for a vette I used to have (and never really finished). It's been sitting on an engine stand for many years waiting for a home. The 383 small block is one of the most popular engine displacements that GM never produced. They finally got the idea recently with a few of the current gen 3 small block displacements, including the 6.2L LS3. The 383 is achieved using a 3.75" stroke 400 crankshaft in a 4.030" bore 350 engine block. The popular choice is to use the long 350 rod (5.7"), instead of the 400's 5.565" rod. Using the 5.7" rod requires custom pistons with a raised wrist pin location, but these are so common, they are pretty much the same price as stock pistons these days. It also requires some minor notching of the engine block, to clear the throw of the rod's bottom end. This is all standard stuff at any speed oriented machine shop. The most important specs/parts are as listed:

  • 383 long rod (5.7") short block with Keith Black Hypereutectic pistons
  • Air Flow Research Aluminium 190cc Intake port volume CNC ported heads
  • Isky hydraulic roller cam with AFR rev kit and dual coil valve springs
  • Accel SuperRam EFI system with custom reduced height plenum for use with 4th Gen F bodies
  • Stainless Steel 1.5 ratio roller rocker arms
  • BBK 58mm throttle body
  • 26lb/hr fuel injectors
  • Programmable DFI engine controller


The Plan
The 4th generation camaros/firebirds (F-bodies) were completely redesigned from all other previous generations, based heavily on the space now available from the new short lived LT-1 gen 2 small block. This engine uses a gear driven reverse flow water pump, a distributor mounted just underneath the water pump, and a very low rise short runner intake manifold. GM went from one extreme to the other with the long runner L98 to the short runner LT-1 in 1991. I think they finally got it all right later on with the all new gen 3 aluminium engines, but in my opinion, they never found a happy medium in the power band department until then. Thanks to the late, great John Lingenfelter for giving us the SuperRam intake manifold, based of the L98 TPI manifold. He cut runner length in half and doubled the plenum size, which made for a perfect street power band. It makes great low end/mid range torque and still winds out to 6500+.

The differences between the LT-1 and the gen 1 small block make for some issues trying to put my engine in the 1994 Firebird. My first concern was the distributor. The engine sits way back under the cowl, so the whole back half of the engine is covered by the cowl. I was relieved to find that there is actually plenty of room for the distributor in the engine bay. The only problem is that the distributor has to be in the engine when I put the engine in. Once the engine is sitting in place, the distributor wont be able to be removed. Also, if the distributor ever fails, I'll have to pull the engine out to replace it. I bought a nice aftermarket billet aluminium performance oriented distributor, so hopefully that wont happen any time soon.

The next issue is the cooling system. Since the LT-1 water pump is driven off of the cam, there is no pulley. Space is so tight under the hood, that in order to retain all my desired street stuff (power steering, A/C, etc), I figured my best chance was to keep everything as close to stock as possible. In order to use the stock pulleys/accessories, I am using a CSR-901H electric water pump. These pumps are highly recommended for street use, and will also give me a few extra ponies. I don't have the pump yet, but I mocked up the brackets on the 383 and it looks like its going to work. Yay!

Next is the SuperRam plenum height. The stock SuperRam is too tall to fit under the cowl. That alone would have been a show stopper for this project, but thanks again to the late, great John Lingenfelter, I now have a prototype reduced height plenum that he made for testing on some 4th gen f cars at his shop in Indiana. I was lucky enough to see one laying around at his shop when I was there for work one time, and bought it off him. As far as I know it was never produced for sale, so I got really lucky here.

Finally, the wiring. I've been doing powertrain electronics engineering at the GM Powertrain dyno labs for many years, which involved many harness designs/builds/modifications so this is the easiest part of the job foe me. I am watching a few old 80's tpi harnesses on eBay that I will modify to interface into the firebirds chassis harness and DFI computer.

So, thats the plan. Now onto the shit...

The Pull 2008-08-13

I pulled the engine and trans out as one. It came out surprisingly easy. These cars are notorious for how packed the engine compartment is. I decided to make life easy on myself by stripping down as much as possible before trying to yank it out. I removed the radiator, entire A/C system, fuel rails, water pump, all the front accessories, and headers and it came right out. My brother has the same type of Firebird, and did a whole engine build too. He pulled the motor separate from the trans, but kept the A/C all in tact. He said it was a major pain in the ass, so I decided to strip it all down and save myself the headaches. After I got the engine out, I had the neighbour tow me down to the car wash. I sprayed the engine compartment down nice and squeaky clean. Now it's time to roll the 383 out of the corner and start tearin into it.

The Problems 2008-09-19

I was hoping to have this project finished by now, but we all know things never go as planned. I never expected to run into a show stopper like I did with this though. One would think I was dealing with Fords here. The LT1 engine block has one additional boss cast into each side of the block for the non standard motor mounts that the F cars use. The LT1 has the typical GM (chevy) 3 holes like every small/big block since 1955, but it also has one extra that no other small blocks have. This photo shows how one of the LT1 motor mounts bolts to my GEN1 small block using 2 of the 3 holes, with the 3rd left open. Click on the image to see it closer, it's probably hard to see here.

I thought long and hard about going ahead with 2 of the three bolts on each side, but in the end I decided to go with this BMR Fabrication tubular K-Member with standard small/big block mounts. There are other benefits to going with this tube K frame, including reduced weight and extra space available for aftermarket headers and exhaust. I am also going with the tubular control arms, and eventually the entire light weight tube front end with aftermarket struts/brakes for about a 100lb weight savings off the front end. I just got the K frame installed today, here is a pic of it in place. Click on this image to see all the pics taken so far of the project from the beginning. Now I'm finally ready to drop the new engine/trans in place. Till next time...

THE END! 2008-11-04
Well, not really, but it's running and driving! I've put about 300 miles on it over the weekend, including 2 trips to Clarkston and back. She hums a precision tune! The main problems right now are the electronics incompatibilities in between the TPI based engine and aftermarket DFI computer and the 4th generation Firebird.

Here is a rundown of all the things that were required to make the SuperRam EFI 383 SBC work:

First and foremost was the motor mount problem as described above. Going with the BMR tube cross member was a great idea. There is so much more room to get to things now, and it's much lighter than the stock bulky cross member.

To wire up the DFI controlled EFI system I started with an 88 TPI MAF based wiring harness. I figured that starting with the correct PCM connectors and injector connectors wired for batch mode firing would be the best starting point for interfacing the DFI controlled 383 to the Firebirds existing electrical system. I strived to be as non intrusive as possible to all the existing wiring, and I succeeded very here in doing this. I enlarged the hole in the firewall on the passenger side, where the 3 connectors enter the interior (The 1994 PCM was under the hood) to fit the PCM connectors and the extra wiring thru. I repinned the PCM connectors and the TPI-to-DFI controller adapter harness that I got with the DFI unit. I completely cannibalized the old LT1 harness in order to modify my TPI harness to fit in place. The main interface points were the C100, C210, C220, and C230 connectors that interface the engine harness to everything from injector power, ignition power, speedo/tach signals, gauge signals, PCM IGN, PCM BATT, fuel pump control, etc. It all came out pretty damn good!

Retaining the stock accessories using the stock accessory bracket required some changes to make things work. First of all, the shortest serpentine belt type crankshaft pulley that I am aware of, is the one used on TPI based corvettes (1985-1991). Even with this pulley, though, the pulley was still 1 inch too far out than the accessory pulleys. I spaced the entire bracket off of the block by one inch using 2 big nuts and one flat washer at each of the 3 mounting locations. This made for perfect alignment. It also made removal of the even side valve cover a breeze. The alternator used to block the valve cover from coming off when it was an inch further back.

Plumbing changes were needed for the electric water pump inlet. The inlet pointed right up too and almost touched the side of the accessory bracket. There was absolutely no room to get a hose on there. I used a bunch of 3/4" threaded plumbing to run the inet down, then forward, thu the middle of the drive belt, then down, then to the passenger side right near the radiator outlet. From there it connects to the radiator via a small 1 3/4 90 degree bent piece of radiator hose. It fits nicely, but if I ever have to change the belt, I will have to remove the bottom radiator hose. One day just for fun I'm gonna go into a jiffy lube and request that I get a new belt with an oil change :)

I upgraded to a Walbro in-tank hi performance fuel pump to satisfy the hi pressure(55-60psi) and higher flow demands of my 383. Thanks to a website I found, mentioned below, It was a total breeze. I decided to cut an access panel in the floor right above the fuel tank. The Racetronix website mentioned below had all the measurements laid out, so it was a simple cut.

The DFI controller has no provisions for vehicle speed, so I scored a couple stand-alone VSS buffer modules from a 1991 S-10 from the local junkyard. The purpose of this module is to convert the analog AC sine wave from the vss sensor into square wave suitable for use with various devices such as ABS, cruise, and the speedometer. The LT-1's PCM has this conditioner circuitry built in, and has conditioned VSS outputs. Unfortunately, the DRAC module didn't completely solve the problem. For some reason, the F-Car version of the T56 trans has a 17 tooth VSS reluctor wheel, instead of the mostly standard 40 tooth reluctor that the automatics, and even the aftermarket version of the T56 has. This 17 tooth reluctor produces a VSS signal to the DRAC that is out of the range of what the DRAC was designed to convert. It's pretty easy to swap the wheels, so I am going to go that route. Once I have the reluctor, it will only be a matter of changing the dip switch settings on the DRAC module to calibrate it to my 2.73 gear ratio, then once again when I switch to the 3.73 gear in a couple of weeks.

The tachometer is a similar story. I believe that the tach expects one pulse per revolution, where right now it is getting 8. That's a pretty simple bit of electronics I need to build (divide-by-8 counter).

So, as of Nov 11th, here's what I have left before I feel she's super long distance road worthy:

  • 3,73 rear end gear swap
  • 40 tooth reluctor swap
  • Correct the tachometer signal
  • Final fuel map and idle system tweaking via calmap. The idle wanders an bit and it runs a bit rich ATM
  • Interior PCM wiring cleanup and routing. The passenger seat and floor is currently a mess of electrical spaghetti
  • Hit the road, jack!

Finally, I would like to mention a couple of the internet resources I used to get the job done. These sites in particular were invaluable resources that I used daily over the course of the 3 months I worked on this car.

http://shbox.com
This site has the contents of almost the entire 93-97 F car GM service manual, most importantly the highly detailed electrical schematics and connector pinouts. I would have had to spend a fortune on a full GM service manual had it not been for this site. I can't thank the owner of this site enough for all of this information. If the owner keeps track of his webserver logs, he will see hundreds of hits from me to the ECM pinouts and Harness connector faces links :)

Racetronix fuel pump install page
I used one and only one thing from this page. It's the first image showing the measurements for the hole to be cut for access to the top of the fuel tank. If it weren't for having those dimensions, I would have never attempted to cut an access panel, and would have went thru the painstaking task of pulling the rear end and exhaust to drop the fuel tank. I had the whole fuel pump swap done in about an hour thanks to that single image. I give that image a 'best gearhead photo of the year' award :)

GM VSSB/DRAC Calibration page
This page has a table of all of the ratios to jumper settings for calibrating a DRAC module for vehicle speed, along with the equation for determining the ratio for any wheel, gear, reluctor tooth count combination.

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