2nd Annual Trans Am Graffiti Cruise

I had a blast taking the Bluebird out with a bunch of other second-gen Firebirds. We started at GM Sports in San Jose, hit Kassabian's in Dublin/Pleasanton and trecked up to Modesto for the Graffitti Car Show.

Dear Cruisers,
Thanks for an awesome cruise this year! We outdid ourselves with 20 cars this year compared to 8 last year. Please mark your calender for the second Saturday in June, 2012, and plan on joining us again.
I am still going through all of the photo's we took. If you have some noteworthy shots you'd like to share please forward them so I can share them with the group. I plan on sending an album out by next weekend.
A special THANK YOU goes out to the following sponsors for helping to make this event fun for all, opening up your parking lots and businesses and for filling us up on coffee and donuts:
GM Sport Salvage
Kassabian Motors
A big HUGE THANK YOU to the car show coordinators and the Kiwanis Club of Modesto for allowing us to park our precious Trans Ams in a secure area! We all really appreciate that and your event was outstanding as usual!!!

Lisa Dalisa

(AKA Jose)


"This is sheriff Buford T. Justice. I'm in pursuit of a black Trans Am. He's all mine so stay outta the way."

Buford T. Justice 1977

If you've ever pushed the gas pedal a little harder than you needed to, just to hear it growl. You'll love this.

"Shell commercial shown in Europe . Ostensibly, they're selling gasoline, but the cars used in the video steal the show. Ferrari pulled several of their race cars from various ages out of storage, flew them around the world, and filmed them running through the streets of Rome, Rio, New York, Hong Kong, Honolulu and Monaco. No computer generated graphics -- these are the original cars on the original streets. The best part is the sound -- from the basso-profound notes of the early, front-engine era, each scene cuts to a later generation, ending with the wail of a modern F1 car. Even if you're not a gear-head, this video will stir the soul. There's just something about 3 liters and 14,000 RPM! I really like the people's reaction to the sound."

-- Gui

Follow ups: 

The Bluebird gets some interior work.

When I purchased the Bluebird a 1973 Firebird 350, it had some after-market items in it that were no longer functioning. 

The console mounted Stewart Warner Tach always read 1500rpm, the aftermarket cruise control was dead, the trip computer didn't talk to the fuel senders anymore, and the digital temp, oil, and voltmeter was on the fritz.

The trip computer was mounted in the original dash bezel, removing it left a big square hole. Likewise for the tach and the temp, oil, volt meter in the center console.  The radio install had been done in the map tray, and the wires run through holes drilled through the map tray.

I got a new reproduction console from Ames Performance http://amesperformance.com/. I also got a 1970-81 Stereo Map Pocket Adapter http://www.78ta.com/store/product.php?productid=168&cat=27&page=1 from Hitman's site to use with the reproduction console and replace the modified map tray.  I must admit that the Map Pocket Adapter didn't match up to the reproduction console as well as I think It would have fit an original console. I fidgeted enough with it to get it installed decently.  I also found a replacement dash bezel on ebay.

Once I had the center console out, removed all of the wiring associated with the cruise control I found that the Accessory fuse had been popped. Perhaps thats why on the last trip my GPS didn't work in the cigarette lighter socket.  I began removing all of the unneeded wiring and trying to chase down the dead short I had somewhere.

I finally chased the problem down to the cigarette lighter. The tabs on the inside that push the lighter out when it's ready had become fused to the inside of the socket.  I ordered a replacment from Ames Performance. The replacement came with the socket and shroud; except the shroud didn't have the support for the extra light that was original to my current socket.  I realized I could take the shroud off of my original, drill a hole in the side of the new socket to allow light into the replacement and re-assemble it.  Worked like a charm. No longer blowing the fuse, and the light in the cigarette lighter still works.

This is the interior of the car before all of the work.

This is a shot of it after.

Only a face a mother could love...

The 1957 Chevy 6100 Wrecker is home.  Thanks to Ray, and R. Lance and Sons Towing. http://rlanceandsons.com/

The Wrecker has a 4 speed manual, with a two speed two ton rear end, PTO, winches, air horns, lots of lights, and a Chevy 350 Under the hood.
It looks uncannily like Tow Mater from Pixar's Cars movie but I'm going to resist naming it "Mater".  It's too cliche; and this is a serious work truck!  Maybe "Bessy"; Not sure.  The truck will eventually name itself; until them I'm just calling it
the 57Wrekr.
Current Todo List:
Rear Brake Drums are Seized; Unseize them.
Rear Brake Lines are Cut; Replace them.
The Rims may be unsafe widow-makers; Have them checked.
The Tires are Dry-rotted; Replace them.
Windshield is severely broken; Replace it.
Driver Side Vent window is missing; Find a replacement.
The bench seat is nasty; Fix or Replace.
Then drive it!
It last ran in May, starting it should only require fluid changes, and a nicely charged battery.
Big props to Ray and R.Lance it was fun going to pick it up, and it went very smoothly.

The Bluebird takes home a trophy.

The Bay Area Firebirds (BAFGFB) group organized a cruise up to the Muscle Cars in the Park 2010 show in Elk Grove, CA.

With a stop in Flag City to group up before making our way to Elk Grove.

On the way to Elk Grove.

The line up.

I came away with a 2nd Place, Best 70-79 GM ( Buick Olds Pontiac )  

My best guess it's a lark, because Lisa's white 78 should have been in the same group and was clearly a better car, and didn't walk away with a trophy.  

I had a great time despite it being a little wet.

Repair the paint job on the suburban after it came out of the wash.

A couple weeks ago I took the suburban to get it washed, and a little spot of paint that had chipped off, turned into a big chunk of paint that went MIA.


This time I saw that the chips went all the way down to metal. (Top right grey color)

I had a couple of choices, ignore it some more, repaint the whole truck, or try to fix it myself.

Ignore it certainly hadn't helped up to this point, and I knew I had some white paint leftover from my repair of under the battery compartment of the Jeep.  I thought it would be a pretty good match. 

It's funny, I'm not a fan of white vehicles, and yet I have two trucks painted the whitest white you can imagine. It certainly wasn't intentional thats just the color they came with, and I'm very much a function over form kinda guy.  I wouldn't turn down a good truck just because it was white.

Materials: my auto masking tape, sanding pad, 1000 grit wet sand paper, old newspapers, old t-shirts, and paint prep cleaner (all left over from my wheel resto project). I  used the low grit sand pad to knock off any weak chips and to round off the edges of the remaining paint. I gave the windshield a slight dusting overspray after the first pass, so after this photo I cleaned it off and put more newspaper up to keep that from happening again. You need more newspaper than you think.

I used the 1000grit to knock the edge off the new paint where it abutted the masking tape.  It's a Good From Far, but Far From Good job.  There is a slight hue difference between the white paints, and theres a difference in the surface texture, but I made the ridge to be in the middle of the curve so it's very difficult to see it if your more than 10' away.  I should have practiced with some body filler and additional sanding, but I'll do that next time.  It does the job for now.

So heres the true out of pocket repair cost: $0; I already had everything from other projects, and still plenty of paint in the rattle can for a few more projects. 

Instrument Panel Overhaul

Last weekends project was re-opening the dash to fix all of the instrument panel lights, and figure out why the fuel gauge was stuck.

Using the service manuals I was able to verify the resistance at the tank, and was able to test it at the wiring harness. So the problem seemed to be the gauge itself.

I rigged up some leads to a 12v DC power supply and tested running a current through the gauge, I managed to make it move, so I figured I'd try putting everything back together and see if it works.


I replaced all thirteen lamps in the instrument panel, and discovered one defective socket.  Luckily my parts store had one of the sockets in stock.

I re-assembled everything, and then took a victory ride, with some pictures along the way at my favorite spot to show off the updated rims and tires.

So far so good with the fuel gauge.

Repainting my Rally II's. -- Done.

This is how they ended up. Mounted and wrapped with 225/60R14 BFG Radial T/A's:


This is what I started with:


Back from the sandblaster ($15/wheel)


After 3 coats of Duplicolor Self Etching Primer (DAP 1690), and 2 light coats and a med coat of Duplicolor High Performance Silver Wheel Coating (WP 101).  * see notes about colors later.
This is also where things start going awry.  I had purchased the 14" Rally II Mask Kit from Ames, which turned out to be a waste in effort and quality.  They are essentially a material that's consistent with shipping labels, they came on a sheet as peel and sticks.  The mask makes no provisions for masking the small 1/4" ring that surrounds the parts that will be charcoal on the face of the rim.  I had "Assumed" the mask kit, was a complete mask. Not so.  The "stick" part of the mask was also a lie.  It didn't stick well, as you can see in this photo. It will come into play later.  I went out looking for some 3m pinstriping tape to try to mask off the areas that the Ames mask didn't cover; couldn't find any with my local loop of Monument Auto Parts, Autozone, OSH, Lowes... I settled on the Automotive masking tape you see in the photo below.  The auto masking tape $4.99 worked better than the mask kit. I could put it down, there is a small ridge between in what would be the charcoal sections, pressing my thumbnail into the depression made a crisp crease, that I could then use as a guide with my pocket knife to cut away the masking tape leaving a nice edge as the mask.  I knew at this point I should rip off the stupid mask kit and just use the masking tape for the spokes. But I ignored my common sense and stubbornly moved forward.  Damnit I paid for them I'm going to use them.


Not shown but there's also the problem of masking the wheel sides, after failed attempts to use a larger 3m masking tape, it just did not want to flex in a circle without coming off the wheel, I crafted a piece of corrugated cardboard into a cylinder that fit over the masking tape in the groove between the wheel face and wheel rim. The only downside to this, was the corrugated cardboard with an uneven cut left room for a little bit of the charcoal to over-spray into the void which I later had to touch up with the silver paint. The darker color is Duplicolor WP102 Graphite.


While painting the graphite color, just as I made a the final pass, one of the stupid mask labels popped up, and I covered the tip of one of the spokes in graphite.  After some expletives, I decided the wheels had enough coats of the graphite color and called it quits.  Once the wheels were dry, I sprayed some of the silver onto a piece of cardboard until it pooled, and I used a craft paintbrush to cover up the graphite over-spray on the spoke that had popped up.

When I had ordered the mask kit from Ames I also asked about the red Pontiac insert in the center wheel caps.  They didn't have a record of a part number for it. I asked about the entire center cap, and apparently its been discontinued.  To make mine red again I used a red sharpie ($0.95), that I spotted as I was checking out after buying some tools at OSH.


Now, about the colors. Despite being armed with known good Duplicolor Paint Numbers that would match the original OEM paints, Nobody locally had them in stock. To order them online would have meant waiting at least five to seven days for them to come via ground.  I settled on the Duplicolor paints above because they were, in stock, close enough to the hues I was after, and I was willing to sacrifice correctness for getting the wheels painted and having the car off the jack stands by the following weekend when my dad comes to visit.  A rolling running car is a lot more interesting than one on Jackstands.  And ultimately my plan is to replace the wheels anyway with some 18x8".  So they just needed to look decent, I didn't need correct. A Pontiac enthusiast will immediately be able to detect that these paints are highly metallic and the graphite is not a dark charcoal, and they are most certainly not correct.  But they do look good.

I am not an expert, and certainly won't be winning any concourse awards for my handiwork, but I'll give you the benefit of my limited wheel painting experience.

If I were to do this again, I would definitely have them sandblasted, I tried cleaning them with a 2000 psi power-washer, which was a waste of time, have them blasted.  I used Maas Bros Powder Coating, and I found that if I had allotted enough time for them to do it, they could have powder coated the wheels in the correct Silver/Argent for $50/wheel.  I thought that was expensive at the time, but considering it took me from 6am to 9pm, and a couple hours the next day to prep, prime, and paint these wheels it now seems like a bargain.

Have a work area in mind first.  Working on the wheels is a lot easier if you can do them all in the same stages.  My workbench couldn't hold more than three wheels at a time, so I had to do them in shifts.  I would make sure I had enough room to do all five wheels on a bench with at least a wheels space between any of the wheels. (All I needed to do was throw a longer 3/4 or 1" plywood board over my sawhorses, if I had thought about it ahead of time)

Do it indoors if you can, I did mine outdoors, and I had to pick out debris that was blown in from the trees. (It's also easier to paint by light if you are indoors) I on the other hand was outside at 9pm when it was pitch dark with my LED headlamp and work-light painting a dark graphite color.

Just mask them yourselves, and don't use the stupid tape with plastic dropcloth that you can buy at OSH it will not stick, or it'll stick to itself, trust me, just throw it away it'll cause you less frustration there. Mask it with auto-masking tape and newspaper and keep your sanity, don't bother with the silly mailing label masks.

If I were to do my cylinder column again, I would use a posterboard, and cut it very accurately. I'd also cut one for each wheel, because using only one form for all wheels it began accumulating paint on the form, and was about to start to run paint down into the work area.  You only need a cylinder about 5" tall, any taller then it starts making the only angle you can spray the paint, almost straight down.

Oh which brings me to my last annoyance.


When I remounted my wheels and was going on my first test drive, something was rubbing, majorly. It turns out that the new way to balance a tire is to install these flat lead weights that are mounted on double sticky tape on the inside of the wheel. WTF?!  And they were hitting my brake calipers on the front. I dismounted the wheels and had to cut them out. I've got to drive it to the shop that did the balancing and make them do it again on all wheels to make sure I can rotate the tires.

My last lesson learned so far: The valve stems are too short once the chrome covers go on, I guess I should have known this and made sure the shop put on longer ones.  Shouldn't the shop have known this?  They are common wheels, they knew exactly what kind of car I had even if they couldn't see it.

But the wheels and that BFG rubber, look good; so in the end, it'll have been worth it.