Category Archives: 1969 Chevrolet El Camino (2012)
The owner of the Austin-Healey Sprite is back for another go. Where the Healey was restored to as built condition, the owner is having fun with this El Camino build.
Today was finally D-day for the el Camino. If you remember, this car should have been wrapped up last year but a few mechanical difficulties caused us to miss our scheduled date for interior. We had to get a new spot in line with the interior guy (Phil’s Upholstery) and that took a few month along with a few months of actually installing the interior. Once that was done we had to remove the locker that was in the rear end. So it was over to Automotive Service Shop to get that done. Once we had it back from them, the only thing left was to get the cruise control working. We did have a few hours invested in that but we did get it all working just in time for the show. As you can see, it turned out really nice. It will be at the Shriners Hot Rod Expo this Friday and Saturday. Come on out and see us.
The El Camino returned to the shop today after having the engine misfire corrected and the clutch replaced. You may recall that the engine in this car was running great on three cylinders but not so well on the other five. We tried it out today and let me tell you, it runs sweet now … smooth as butter. I think we need a “do-over” on that first start video we did a couple of weeks ago.
Early next week we will get the hood striker installed and get the mirrors on the doors and tidy up a few other little issues … but I think this car is all but done.
Well … our part anyway.
We are so nearly done with the El Camino it makes no difference. We need to replace the shop tires with the actual set of wheels and tires that go on the car, put the rear-view mirrors on and get the hood latch installed, but those are trivial things compared to where this car started.
If you haven’t been following the progress of this car over the last year, click here to see what the owner started with, and compare that to what he has now. If you want to read the complete story on this car, you can follow the rust repair at the Throwback Custom Cars website then come back here and read about our part of making this sows ear into a silk purse. Just click on the 1969 Chevrolet El Camino (2012) link in Categories to the right.
The car still needs to have it’s interior installed, a service that we don’t offer here at JMC AutoworX, but once that is complete we will be able to do my favorite part of the job … give the car one final polish, take the completed photos and turn the keys over to the owner.
The first six photos show the car in it’s gleaming Blackberry Pearl paint. This car was painted using our High Performance Finish technique, our finest paint finish, displaying the sharpest reflections and the maximum depth and clarity.
The last photo, number seven, is of the El Camino leaving to have a bit of light transmission work done. When we started the car last week for the first time it made some rather ominous noises from the transmission area. I don’t think it is anything serious, but best to have it checked out before it turns into something serious.
Everyone, even cars, deserve one last piggy-back ride before they stand on their own two feet.
The car is nearly almost done. It seems like there is always one more thing to do. Like the hood striker, the little thing that hangs off the hood to keep it closed, is still missing. And the parking brake light, which was working last week is working too well now … it is on all the time.
It still needs the clutch problem fixed and the interior put in. Plus it needs to be fitted with more appropriate wheels and tires, but those are issues for someone else to deal with.
But the JMC AutoworX stuff … yeah that is nearly almost done.
Thursday we started the project El Camino up for the first time and the motor sounded like a deranged gnome was inside pounding on a piece of metal with a hammer. Kelly and Josh Murphy arrived and diagnosed the noise as the crank hitting the oil pan. If you want to hear the noise for yourself you can see the video on my youtube channel here. The video is only 90 seconds long, but let me warn the petrolheads out there … the sound will make you cringe.
We don’t do heavy mechanical repairs like this here at JMC Autoworx because we simply don’t have the time and I don’t have the inclination. I’m a painter not a mechanic. However, on Friday Jordan, a former employee that long time readers may remember, volunteered to replace the oil pan for the customer for some additional Christmas money. The owner of the car agreed and a deal was struck between them. I allowed Jordan to do the work in the JMC AutoworX shop since it was a customer’s car and he was a long-time and valuable employee, but the caveat was the car had to be done by Monday morning so we could move it around in the shop like normal.
I don’t know all the details, but I do know that there were a couple of very long days involved because the engines didn’t give up the oil pan willingly. You can see in the first picture that a engine hoist was involved, which is never a good sign. What you can’t see it the rest of the car scattered around the shop. Jordan told me that the transmission had to come out first, then the bell housing second, before the engine could be raised enough to get the pan out from under the engine. Jordan claims that if the Murphy’s put the engine and transmission in the car in one piece (which they did) the are decedents of Harry Houdini because he couldn’t figure out how they did it.
The really scary part of the work is there was no way to know for certain that the problem was in fact the crank hitting the oil pan, but as you can see in the next two photos, it was. In the second picture you can just see a mark at the front of the oil pan. The third photo shows the mark better. The mark, the silver looking dash near the center of the picture, is where the crank was hitting the pan. The mark is about a ½-millimeter deep, maybe one across and perhaps six wide.
We started the car again today. We still have a problem with fouled fuel-injectors and the clutch still isn’t working properly, but the deranged gnome? Jordan took away his hammer so he left. Once we get the car running properly we will have a new first start video … one where you can actually hear what the car will sound like when everything is working properly.
The three pictures to this point were taken on Saturday. The next five photos were taken today.
Picture four shows the car with the header panel installed. We had to fuss with the hood, fender and header panel to get decent gaps all the way around. These older cars, especially with replacement sheet metal installed, don’t have tight gaps like modern cars do, but I still try to get them as tight and even as I can.
In picture five all four head-lamps are installed and the bezels are attached. Now the car is starting to look like it should.
In picture six Chris (left, in black) and I are mounting the front bumper. Most of the trim and chrome work on this car is either reworked original pieces or NOS (new old stock … original replacement parts that were never installed), including this bumper. Because this is an original General Motors bumper it is heaver than a dead preacher, but it will last, and will look and fit better, than any after-market bumper ever could.
The last two photos, numbers seven and eight, show the car with the complete front end installed. We still need to hook up the turn signals, you can see the wires dangling under the bumper, plus there are a couple of other small jobs to do, but the car is basically assembled. And brother, does it ever look sharp.
The car still needs an interior, the clutch is going to have to be sorted, and the owner is going to have to get some new wheels and tires for the car, but the JMC AutoworX stuff … that’s nearly done.
It is supposed to rain most of the week … but if we can catch a nice pretty day we are going to have to get this thing out in the sun so we can truly see what we have wrought. I think it is going to be a real looker myself.
We had other things going on in the shop today so we didn’t spend a lot of time working on the El Camino. After the disappointment yesterday when starting the car I pulled the plug on getting it to the show in February, the reason we were scrambling to finish it. All we did today was get the car cleaned out and the sound deadening seams taped over to prevent goo from potentially getting on the back of the interior when it is installed.
You may recall that yesterday when we we started the car it made a horrible noise. Kelly and Josh Murphy tracked the noise to the crank just brushing against the oil pan. The owner has made arrangements to have the oil pan replaced over the weekend with work starting on that this afternoon. Maybe, if all goes well, we will have a much better, a much less noisy, video of the El Camino running this weekend.
I hope that is the case.
Today we worked on finishing up the last few things with the anticipation of having the car leave the shop tomorrow for the installation of the interior. We were cutting it a little fine, but I think every project in every shop expands to fill all available time … at least mine do … and this project is no exception.
The first photo, taken with my phone, shows the intake in place. The kit the owner bought didn’t fit so we cobbled this together. We are going to come back and wrinkle paint the aluminum tube to match the elbow we put on the car.
In the second, third and fourth photos we are once again putting this (censored) grille in the car. I hope the owner never breaks the grille on this car because he can put the next one in. Ok … not really, but I loathe this grille.
In the last photo, number 5, you can see me pouring gas into the car so we can start it the first time. The owner, who was there for the event, has been all confidence for the last week that when this time came, the car would start right up. I, on the other hand, was cautiously optimistic.
We fixed a fuel line leak, and later tracked down a loose electrical plug, but despite having not been started in 15-years, the car did, nearly, start right up. It’s hard to kill a small-block Chevy. But it wasn’t all milk and honey.
Once the car did start there was a horrible knock. I’m impressed the owner didn’t loose his composure while we diagnosed the problem. Kelly and Josh Murphy of Throwback Custom Cars came over to help diagnose the problems, most especially the knock. An hour later the cooling system was sorted, fixed by bleeding the air, the rough idle diagnosed as fouled injectors and most importantly the knock was found to be the crank bumping the oil pan.
The best guess is that the motor, having been out of a car of some time, has a slightly bent oil pan that the crank is just grazing. A little work on the pan should take care of the knock and a couple of cans of injector cleaner will, I hope, take care of the fouled injectors.
Overall, after the initial scare over the noise, it went better than I thought it would. Considering that at the moment the El Camino has a 5.7L V3 engine in it, it seems to be running pretty well.
I had a several problems with the assembly of the grille. One of the problems is the car arrived with the grille missing so I was trying to put the grille in the car without having seen how it was originally. Another problem is the owner is cloning this ’69 El Camino back to a ’68. The cars are very nearly the same, except for the grille, so I had some trouble with parts that looked the same but were just different enough so that they wouldn’t interchange. But the biggest problem is the grille is composed of at least 20 different pieces. I pity the guys that had to build this thing on a moving assembly line back in 1968.
Anyway, after realizing I was in over my head I called Collin Hinshaw at Ausley’s Chevelle Parts. What Collin doesn’t know about Chevelles, and by extension, second and third generation El Camino’s, really isn’t worth knowing. He stopped by the shop this afternoon, looked at the parts I had, and made a list of the pieces that were missing or incorrect. Later in the evening, he stopped by the shop and showed me how to put all the parts together into one assembled grille.
Unfortunately Ausley’s didn’t have a couple of critical pieces, so we weren’t able to finish the assembly of the grille tonight, but Collin’s knowledge got me over the hump so as soon as the two missing parts arrive I can put the grille together.
The first photo shows a couple of the corner pieces of the grille in place. This is about as far as I got before I started running into problems.
In the second picture Collin (left) is in the shop helping us test fit the pieces in place. Not everything went together quite as well as I hoped. This car has a mixture of OEM (Original Equipment Manufactured) NOS (New Old Stock … basically left over original replacement parts) and reproduction parts. When these classics are rebuilt using reproduction parts they don’t always go together quite as well as one would like.
The third photo shows Collin (right) and Chris working to see if the corner molding is going to fit properly. They didn’t and new holes had to be drilled for them. This is where Collin was a tremendous help because he could say, “Make this work here like this.” and I could then make it work. Without his expertise I would wondering if something was assembled incorrectly, or if I had the wrong part … or it just didn’t fit properly and needed a little persuasion.
In the fourth picture you can see Chris doing a little persuading on a part. Look out the windows behind him. See how dark it is outside? That’s right … we are so cool we wear sunglasses at night.
In the fifth picture I am cutting a template to mark where some holes need to be drilled in the valance. I’m not sure why the valance doesn’t ship with the required holes already drilled, but it doesn’t. You can see me drilling the holes in the valance in the sixth picture while Chris (left) and Collin (right) hold everything in place.
Finally, in the seventh picture, we are putting the grille into the car … and it still didn’t fit. It was close, but the brackets Chris worked on earlier need some more work, but in a different place this time. You can see me working on the bracket with a die-grinder in the eighth picture.
While we didn’t get the grille installed tonight, everything has been test fit and aligned. Once the missing brackets arrive we will be able to finish getting the grille into the car and check that off the to-do list.
And that is a good thing. I don’t have enough hair to keep tearing it out like that.
Today we worked on a little of this and a little of that on the El Camino. We seem to keep running into little problems that prevent us from fully completing a task … so we hop from one thing to another just to keep the project moving forward.
One thing we did get done today was the mounting of the rear bumper. In the first photo you can see Chris mounting some of the bumper brackets onto the bumper.
In the second photo Chris is under the car tightening up the various bumper brackets. When this El Camino project first arrived I advised, and after come cajoling the owner agreed to, lowering the car two inches. Now every time one of us has to get under the car I find myself asking, “What was I thinking!?”
Except for the addition of a license plate, you can see in picture three the back of the car looks complete. When this picture was taken we hadn’t yet hooked up the license plate lamp or the backup lamps. That is what those wires dangling from under the car are for, but we did get the lamps hooked up and working before the day was over.
After the rear bumper went on, we turned our attention to the installing the radiator. We had been waiting on it’s arrival, and what a work of art it is. It was almost to nice a piece to cover up, but cover it up we did. You can see the radiator installed in picture four. With the cooling capacity of 1,000 horsepower, I don’t think the owner of this El Camino has any overheating problem to worry about.
The radiator shipped complete with everything need to for the install with the exception of hoses and coolant. You can see the beautiful polished aluminum catch tank that came in the kit mounted to the firewall in picture five.
After installing the radiator in the car and attaching the included fans, the only thing left to do was to install the radiator hoses, wire the fans and pour in the coolant. Since it was late in the day and we didn’t have any hoses on hand, Chris (left) and I spent the rest of the day wiring up the fans. You can see us puzzling through the wiring harness that came in the kit in picture six.
Now that the radiator has finally arrived we nearly ready to try to start the car for the first time. We need to attach the radiator hoses and add the coolant before we try to start it, and we also need to finish plumbing the power-steering so we don’t ruin the pump by running it without fluid. But even with all that, I’m thinking next week we should hear some sound and fury from the old girl.