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It’s custom

2012.11.30 - El Camino (1)2012.11.30 - El Camino (2)2012.11.30 - El Camino (3)2012.11.30 - El Camino (4)2012.11.30 - El Camino (5)2012.11.30 - El Camino (6)2012.11.30 - El Camino (7)2012.11.30 - El Camino (8)2012.11.30 - El Camino (9)While Chase toiled away wet sanding the Plymouth, Chris and I spent today working on the wiring of the El Camino. Not so much installing the wiring as testing.

The first thing this morning Chris took an hour or so to hook up the horns. The car didn’t have horns when we first got it so the first order of business was to find out where the horns go and how they attach. There was no obvious way or place to mount them but after a few minutes of digging on the internet he found a picture and discovered what he needed to know. You can see him installing the horns in the first photo and the results of his handy work in the second. What I want to know is how did we do anything before the internet?

The owner of the El Camino wanted a lot of light inside the car to eliminate dark corners. To that end we mounted a pair of LED bulbs inside the smuggler box that come on with the interior lamps. A clever idea if I do say so myself.

The third and fourth photos show Chris mounting the LED’s in the box. The LED’s mount flush in the top of the box as you can see in the fifth photo. After the wires were tied together we slipped the box into place and hooked them up to the interior lamp circuit as you can see in picture number six. The LED’s aren’t dazzling bright, but they do throw a nice amount of light into the interior of the box. Just another of those little custom touches that will surprise and delight the owner.

And speaking of custom touches, here is another one. The owner asked that the intake be painted black, to match the rest of the engine and engine bay, but then he wanted to sand the black off the top of the strakes to reveal the aluminum underneath. To be honest, my first thought was “Why?”, but it’s what the customer wanted so we did it. It is hard to tell, but picture seven shows the intake after the paint was sanded off. In person you can easily see why he wanted it done … it looks great and helps ties the look together.

After seeing the intake we decided to set in place the fuel rail covers we painted way back at the start of this project. The covers were the first things painted as a color check, and we have been saving them for this moment. The engine is quit dirty, something we will take care of before the car it turned over to the owner, but you can get an idea of how the engine is going to look in the last two pictures, numbers eight and nine. We are going to have to modify the right cover just a bit to get it to fit, but I think they look good and will set the engine, once it is cleaned up, off rather nicely.

I wouldn’t call this El Camino a custom car, it is still basically as GM built it in 1969. Having said that, it does have enough subtle customization to make it a true one of a kind.

So maybe it is a custom car after all.

Let there be light

Today we applied power to the car … and their wasn’t a firetruck in sight.

The first picture shows the head-lamps on. Well, three of them anyway. How annoying to have a bad bulb right out of the box. At least I hope it is a bad bulb. I will get a new one tomorrow and put it in to make sure but that is the most likely problem.

We also verified that the tail-lamps, brake lamps and all the interior lights work. The engine turns over, though we didn’t actually try to start it because the radiator isn’t installed yet. Even the wipers work. As we do further testing we may uncover an electrical gremlin or two, but energizing the car and have everything appear to work, and no fires … it was a good day.

The other two pictures show the right side fender on. The right fender is on because I no longer have to be in and around the engine working on the wiring. Just another example of the end, or nearly the end, of the wiring.

I have wired many cars in my career and never had a fire, or even a near fire. I make fun about first applying power to a car after I wire it … but truth be told, every time I hook the battery up for the first time I hold my breath.

It may be nerves … but it also prevents smoke inhalation you see.

Are we coming or going?

Today we worked on both front and the back of the car.

In the first photo the head-lamps are installed in the car. These head-lamps are the same unites that were sold in BMW’s for years … but with a bit brighter bulbs installed. If you look closely you can just see the blue bulb in the right most head-lamp. The bulb appears blue, but when energized it will light with a brilliant white light.

The second photo is of the back of the head-lamp. We had to modify the head-lamp bucket just a bit to let the new lamps fit.

The third photo shows how you get the power from one side of the car to the other. We will tuck these wires up out of sight once the radiator arrives and we get it installed.

The fourth photo is of the high-low head-lamp switch. This is actually a starter button that is functioning as a momentary switch. The wiring harness has a few optional extras in it, one of which is a flash-to-pass feature activated by the momentary switch when the lights are off. The switch is ultra-heavy-duty for this function, and nearly silent in it’s operation, so no more click-clunk when dipping the head-lamps.

The fifth photo shows where we are dividing the rear wiring harness from one loom that carries the wires from the fuse block to the back of the car into two looms to service various functions. The bottom of the “T” that runs into the grommet feeds the fuel pump, fuel gauge and the right side lamps. The left side of the “T” goes to the left side tail-lamps. The larger loom on the right side goes back to the front of the car to the fuse block.

In the sixth photo, we are further sub-dividing the harness. In the extreme upper right of the photo you can see the same grommet shown in picture five. The loom is threaded though the factory supports and then divided again for the fuel system, lamps and other functions.

In the seventh picture you can see another section of the harness fed along the extreme back of the car. That single little wire is for the backup-lamps.

The last four photos, numbers 8-11, show the tail-lamps going in. We actually were able to test these today … and I took pictures of them all lit up … but they were so blurry from camera shake that I didn’t want to use them. Trust me, they work just fine.

Another few days of progress like the last two and we are going to be ready to begin systems testing on the car. You know … to make sure the horn doesn’t turn on the wipers … things like that.

Wired up

We have made good progress on the wiring the El Camino since returning from our Thanksgiving holiday. The cabin is now completely wired and we have moved on to the external wiring.

The first photo shows a bundle of wires, some engine harness, some not, but all neatly wrapped in wiring looms routed tidily around behind the engine. In wiring, neatness counts because it reduces the likelihood of problems and makes troubleshooting, if there are problems, so much easier.

The second photo shows the engine wiring harness neatly bundled in a wiring loom. The looms, while not strictly necessary, certainly tidy up the engine bay.

The third picture shows an example of how we tie wires, which would tend to move around if not secured, to more solid objects so they are neatly routed and stay where they belong. Nothing will ruin your day faster than having a wire abrade or burn through the insulation and begin shorting against something.

The starter is hooked up in the fourth pictures. Let’s fire this baby up! Oh wait … I still have to hook up the computer and the rest of the engine harness. Never mind.

The last two pictures, numbers five and six, show the rear harness. The harness snakes through the inside of the left quarter panel from the fuse box mounted against the firewall to the back of the car. Not an impossible task, obviously since we did it, but it wasn’t much fun either.

Another few days with this kind of progress and we will be ready to try to start this beast for the first time.


This afternoon we jumped into the wiring on the El Camino hot and heavy. We have a deadline we are trying to meet and the wiring isn’t doing itself.

In the first photo you can see me working with the wiring, in this case trying to determine what goes where.

In the second photo Chris (left) and I are puzzling over the cruise control. Though it was an option in 1969, this El Camino was not equipped with cruise. Not that it matters. Because of the engine swap to an LT1 with all it’s computer controls the old vacuum operated cruise control wouldn’t have worked anyway.

The third photo shows the fuse block for the engine mounted to the fender. This puts the block out in the open for easy access should the need arise.

The last photo shows the air conditioning with the power hooked up. This aftermarket system by Vintage Air has fully computerized controls so when the time comes it is simply plugging two sets of wires together to fully activate the system. That will be much easier than trying to get the old fashioned sliding levers with their physical connections all hooked up and properly adjusted.

Even though we only worked on the El Camino a half-day today we made good progress. We have the cruise installed along with the engine fuse block and part of the air conditioning.

I like going into the holiday on a positive note.

Measuring for new shoes

Yesterday we continued the assembly process on the El Camino … and we measured it for some shoes.

The first two photos show us using a tool for measuring the clearance for the wheel and tire combination. What I thought was going to be a quick and simple job has turned into head scratcher.

The problem is the fender opening on this car is huge … so it requires a large wheel and tire to fill it up the way the owner wants. But … a tire that fills out the wheel well rubs on the anti-roll bar at full lock. What complicates the matter is the owner has a very clear picture of the look he wants and the wheel he has picked out offers few offset options to work with.

Offset, for those who don’t know, determines where the hub mounting surface is in relation to the width of the wheel. Positive offset means the wheel tucks more under the car with the mounting surface closer to the outside of the wheel, negative offset pushes the wheel farther out from under the car with the mounting surface closer to the back of the wheel. Zero offset means the mounting surface is right in the center of the wheel.

Anyway, we are going to take another look at the clearance problem today to make sure we didn’t overlook something yesterday, and see what options we have.

Also yesterday we got the tailgate assembled and ready to mount on the car. You can see that in the next two pictures, numbers 3 and 4.

We also got the left fender mounted up, as you can see in the last picture, picture number 5, because we needed it to measure for clearance for the wheels and tires.

We still a ways to go to finish, but if you crouch down a little and look at it from the left side, it looks pretty good.

Mount up!

Friday, when the El Cartrucko arrived back at the shop we didn’t have much time to do anything other than snap a few photos. But today we started hitting it hard. By the end of the day we had both doors mounted and aligned, one of the the inner-fenders mounted and aligned and the fuse block installed.

The first three photos show me mounting and aligning the left hand door. The doors on this car aligned pretty easily because they came off the car, but that isn’t always the case. The third photos shows some of the really nifty hex drive stainless steel bolts that we will use to assemble the car. Not only do they look nicer than phillips-head bolts, they don’t slip as easily when tightening. Less chance of slipping means less chance of scratching that beautiful new paint … and that will delight any paint and body man’s heart. I approve of these bolts … but then I should since I’m the one that told the owner what to buy.

The fourth photo gives you an idea of what the side of the car is going to look like. The fender is only gently attached, temporarily in place so we can fit the inner-fender.

The last  photo, number five, show the fuse box mounted in place. All those wires in the photograph will be run throughout the car to power various lights and other electrical devices. It’s not hard work, each wire is labeled, but it is tedious work and attention to detail is critical. You’ve seen the movies where the driver turns on the headlights and the wipers start? Yeah, that’s only funny in the movies.

Tomorrow we hope to have the fenders mounted and aligned, and if we’re lucky, we’ll get the hood mounted and aligned as well. Then it will start to look like a car, or truck, something, instead of collection of parts.

Ready to rumble … almost

The El Camino is back from Murphy Rod & Custom and Alamance Mufflers. Kelly and Josh Murphy installed all the mechanical systems in the car … the engine, transmission, air conditioning, etc. and Alamance Mufflers did the exhaust plumbing.

The first picture shows the engine installed in the car. It is wired and ready to go, lacking only a couple of power steering hoses, the cooling system and a battery to be complete.

The second photo shows the steering column and wheel in the car. I have seen steering wheels similar to that one, but that is the first time I have seen that wheel leather wrapped. I think it is a good look.

The third photo shows the Vintage Air installed under the dash. You are looking at the unit though the hole where the glove box is going to be. The owner isn’t going to need it now that winter has arrived, but he is going to like it just fine next summer.

The last three photos show the exhaust system. You can see why I send all my exhaust work, and recommend, Alamance Mufflers. They always do a neat and tidy job.

The exhaust is 2½-inch pipe all the way back with 22-inch Magnaflows to quite the LT1 small block under the hood. An “H” pipe is installed to smooth the exhaust pulse and the exhausts exit Chevelle style behind the rear wheels with turn-downs. Check out those bends over the axle in picture five.

If we just had the wiring harness in this baby would be ready to go. Well, the wiring harness and the interior … and doors, fenders, hood, tailgate, glass and cooling system.

But other than that, it is ready to go.

Quick silver

Today the Mini went in the booth for it’s paint. We really only needed the hood, but since the hood and fenders are all one unit the car basically got an entirely new front-end.

The first first photo is of the replacement radiator assembly, ready to go into the car to replace the one damaged in the collision.

The next two photos, numbers two and three, are the car with the base coat applied. The base coat always dries to this near flat finish. But that’s ok, because as you can see in the next two photos, numbers four and five, adding the clear coat makes that dull, lifeless finish come to life. It is the clear coat that is the magic of the two stage paint system, providing not only protection to the paint underneath, but the zing and pow to the finish to boot.

Tomorrow, after the paint is dry, we will get started putting the car back together by installing the cooling system and the various grills and emblems.

Then this little silver hot rod will be ready to go home, good as new.

Like new again

Today we finished painting the sheet metal on the car. I think. We may turn up a few things here and there that need a new coat of paint, but I really think we are done painting Blackberry Pearl, the base color of the car.

The first photo is of the “smuggler box” cover painted to match the car. Considering how bad it looked when we started, it looks really, really, good now.

The second photo is the other end of the bed, the tailgate inside cover. The owner made a late evening run to the parts store to pick this piece up so we could complete the painting today. 

The next three photos, numbers three, four and five, are shots of various parts that came with the car cleaned up and painted. Picture three contains the head-lamp buckets and various braces. After looking at all the parts hanging there most of the day we started referring to this stand as the “body shop Christmas tree.”

The items in picture four are the tail-lamp mounting brackets. You won’t see these at all, they will be hidden inside the fenders, but they were so grungy that I couldn’t stand it so we cleaned an painted them too.

In picture five you can see the tailgate latch mechanisms. These are mounted to the edges of the tailgate and lock the tailgate in the upright position when they interlock with their mates on the edge of the bed. The only part you will see of these are the parts painted black. The rest of the mechanism will be hidden inside the tailgate.

In the sixth photograph I am hunched over the instrument panel wiring the gauges. It isn’t hard, but it is tedious cutting and fitting all the wiring to make everything work. I worked on it for a couple hours today but ran out of time before I finished, so you will probably see another shot of me looking much like this in a later entry.

Though the instrument panel isn’t fully wired, you can see what it will look like in picture seven. These are a new style of gauge recently introduced by Auto Meter called Black Diamond and they look fantastic, a perfect match for this car.

We have gone about as far as we can with the car until it comes back from Murphy Rod & Custom. About all we can do until then is wait for the paint to dry.

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