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Stage V

Stage V is where we actually get to have some fun. None of the jobs that are documented here were particularly necessary (at least urgently), but part of the fun is trying things to see how they may improve the vehicle. Some may seem rather mundane and even senseless to some.

Battery Hold Down (finished November 2011)

There really wasn’t much holding the battery in place. The object was to fabricate a battery hold down using some 3/8 inch threaded rod. Why 3/8 inch threaded rod? Just in case I ever want to run the car at a drag strip, NHRA/IHRA rules require this type of arrangement. While relocating the battery to the right rear is an attractive option, it won’t be happening on this project. The job was actually easier than I thought it would be. I spent four dollars on some 3/8 inch threaded rod and now the battery is sitting snugly in place all legal!

Total Cost: $4.00
Total Time: Under an hour.
Total Stage V costs to date - $4.00

Coil Replacement
(Completed May 2012)

I was thumbing through a Summit Racing Catalog and came across aftermarket remote ignition coils for the Camaro. The part was SUM-850012 (34.95). I figured that the coil was 20 years old and might have lost a little kick over the years so I ordered one. Whoever designed the mount never intended the coil to be replaced. The factory coil was basically riveted into the mount. My power drill made quick work of the rivets and the coil came with hardware to reuse the mount. Overall the job took about an hour and I needed no additional parts. As for performance improvement I can’t really be sure but the car does seem to run a little better and besides, the bright red coil does look cool. This was a job worth doing.

Total Cost: $35.00
Total Time: 1 hour
Total Stage V costs to date - $39.00

Transmission Pan (Completed May 2012)

I hate having to drop the pan to change the fluid. Yes, I know you need to do it to change the filter; however, with a drain plug you can turn this into a considerably less messy job. Summit sells a wonderful aluminum pan (with a drain plug) under part number SUM-433886 (59.95). I changed both the pan and put in a new filter in May 2012. The pan is Aluminum and in addition to having some additional cooling properties it looks good too!  I would recommend this be done during the initial tune up - fluid change.

Total Cost: $75.00
Total Time: 2 Hours
Total Stage V costs to date - $114.00

Drive Shaft/Drive Shaft Loop (Completed June 2012)

I had in my “inventory” a custom drive shaft loop for a third generation Camaro. In case the reader doesn’t know, a driveshaft loop is a solid loop that you install near the transmission tail. The idea is that if the forward U-joint breaks that the loop will keep the driveshaft from digging into the pavement like a pole vault pole (which it not an attractive idea!). Since I wanted to remove the driveshaft to examine it and paint it, my plan was to install it while I had the drive shaft off the car. I decided to handle this job in May 2012 on a Saturday when I had nothing else to do.

First, I was quite pleasantly surprised at how easy I was able to remove the driveshaft. I have had trouble loosening the bolts that hold the U-joint straps on other projects and expected the worst. If I had to wager any serious cash I would guess the last time the drive shaft was out of the vehicle was just before was installed at the plant in Van Nuys in 1992! Don’t get me wrong; they required a decent amount of torque to get loose, but nothing like I’ve encountered in the past. I did need to use a long screwdriver to pry the rear U-joint out of the differential but again, I needed nowhere near the force I’ve used on other projects. The driveshaft is relatively short on a third generation Camaro and is easily slid out of the transmission tail.

Installing the loop in not difficult, but it does require drilling through the floor. Of course that means that both seats must come out. Since the bolts came through the floor under the seats, I simply slit the carpet to gain access to the floor. If you want to do a more elaborate job I suppose you can remove the carpet but that’s a lot more work and frankly nothing is gained since the slit is not visible under the seats. This is not a difficult task; just time consuming. Surprising enough that loop fit the contour of the floor pan exactly and cleared the torque arm as advertised. The loop bolted right in and the job was done in less than two hours. While I had the driveshaft off the car and sanded in and painted it with Rustoleum “Hammered Finish” black paint. The driveshaft appeared to be in very good condition overall.

Note – A driveshaft loop is required if you ever plan on drag racing the car on slick tires. Unless I had something like this already in the inventory I would not have done this job. While this particular loop required removal of the drive shaft for installation, there are “universal” loops available that can be installed with the drive shaft still on the car.

Total Cost: $40.00
Total Time: 2 hours
Total Stave V costs to date: $154.00

Hypertech Cooling Switch (Completed September 2012)

I never liked that the fan doesn’t even come on until the water temperature is around 220. There is an easy fix for this situation; a Hypertech Fan Switch (Hypertech Part 4026 – 39.95 at Summit Racing). After installing this part the fan turns on at 176 and off at 166. At the same time I replaced the stock thermostat with a Hypertech 160 degree thermostat (Hypertech Part 1000 – 4.95 at Summit Racing). You will notice that since the fan is running most of the time now that the voltmeter reads around 13.8 instead of around 14.2. The bottom line is that the engine is running a ton cooler and I like that a lot, especially during the summer.

While this is not a particularly complex installation, it does require you to drain the radiator to avoid pouring coolant all over yourself. The sensor is located in the right side cylinder head between the number 6 and 8 spark plugs. You have to work from the bottom and it helps if you remove the right side tire. The oil dip stick slightly interfered with access to the sensor. The sensor uses a 21 mm socket. I expected the removal to be very difficult but was able to do it with just my ratchet wrench. Of course I retained the stock sensor just in case I want to revert back to the original set up. You can check out more detail here.

Total Cost – 45.00
Total Time – 1 hour
Total Stage V costs to date: $199.00

New Water Pump (Completed October 2012)

The water pump was completely rusty and I just didn't like the way it looked. Considering how important the water pump is, I decided the solution was to get a new water pump (Duralast CWP-715HD - 29.99 at Auto Zone) and using some ARP bolts (130-3203, 13.26 at Summit if you had to buy them youself - of course you could have just used the originals) I already had in stock replace it. I had to use a threaded plug I already had in stock (around 2 bucks at any hardware store or you could just pull the one from the old pump). Contrary to what people think, changing a water pump is not a difficult task. I do recommend loosening the pully bolts prior to removing the serpentine belt. The four water pump bolts are easily accessible provided you have the right extentions for your ratchet wrench. While I had the pump out I repainted the pulley. The old pump was quite rusty, but I repainted it and will keep it around as a spare. I thought about an aluminum pump and if this was to be a dedicated drag race vehicle it would be an easy way to shave several pounds off the nose but for the purposes of this project it just isn't worth it. If I come across a good deal on such a pump in the future say at a swap meet I would definitely consider it. You can view some additional details and photos of the job by clicking here.

Total Cost - 44.00
Total Time - 1.5 hours.
Total Stage V costs to date: $243.00

Hood Prop (Completed November 2012)

You can't expect the shock absorber type things that hold the hood up to last forever. With the onset of cooler weather I noticed that mine weren't quite holding the car up as well as I'd like. I decided to install a hood prop I already had in stock. If you had to buy one it would cost less than 20 bucks. You can view a couple photos of the job and more details by clicking here.

Total Cost - 20.00
Total Time - 10 minutes.
Total Stage V costs to date: $263.00

Air Cleaner Replacement (Completed November 2012)

Let's face it, the stock air cleaner assembly is restrictive as all get out on these cars. Engines need air to have any chance of producing power. I decided to see if I could use some existing parts I had in the inventory to upgrade the intake. You can see photos and read much more detail by clicking here.

Total Cost - 50.00 (can be done for less w/o the K&N Air Cleaner - you could just use a 14x3 paper filter but what fun is that?)
Total Time - 1 hour
Total Stage V costs to date: $313.00

Starter Replacement (Completed November 2012)

I never liked the way the starter sounded. I had a couple spare high torque racing starters in the inventory so I decided to see if putting one in made a difference. A high torque starter will certainly rotate the engine better and sounds, well, it isn't laboring. I wouldn't necessarily recommend pulling a perfectly good starter out but if the starter does sound like it's starting to fail, this is a worthwhile upgrade. You can read more here.

Total Cost - 130.00 (if you have to buy a new high torque starter - a stock replacement goes for around 60.00 at Auto Zone)
Total Time - 1.5 hours.
Total Stage V costs to date: $443.00

AIR Pump Deletion (Completed December 2012)

Getting rid of the AIR pump and related plumbing will cut about 10 pounds off the car and maybe gain you 1 or 2 hp. What it does do in get rid of a significant amount of clutter under the hood. I did the job very carefully so I could at any time put it all back in if necessary. You should only consider this job if your vehicle is not subject to emissions testing since it will fail a visual test.  You will need a new belt - A DAYCO 6050968 (36.99 at Auto Zone). You can see much more detail by clicking here.

Total Cost -38.00
Total Time - Less than an hour.
Total Stage V costs to date: $481.00

(Temporary) Air Conditioning Removal (Completed July 2013)

The air conditioner on the car really didn't work well from the day I acquired the vehicle.  Finally the a/c clutch went out.  I've had an a/c unit freeze up on me and it isn't pretty, particularly if the pulley freezes and the serpentine belt decides to shred or simply fall off.  I really didn't want to put 200 bucks into a new compressor.  Amazingly, there is another option.  My friends at Auto Zone sell a part that bolts right into the a/c mount that is simply a pulley; a Dorman AC Bypass Pulley part 34157.  I ordered this part online (38.00 including shipping and tax).  With the part I could temporarily take the compressor off without effecting the routing of the serpentine belt.I say "Temporary" because I am doing the removal of any parts in such a way that they can be reinstalled at a later date should I decide to do so; not a rough tear out with no regard to future use like you might do with a car you are devoting 100% to racing.  The parts all came off a lot easier than I thought the would.  You can look at some pictures and get more detail by clicking here.

Total Cost - 38.00
Total Time - About an hour start to finish
Total Stage V costs to date - $519.00

As of this update (July 2013) I have done 519.00 of improvements to the vehicle - I say "done" instead of spent because I had many of the parts (like the high torque starter, K&N Air Cleaner assembly, hood prop, threaded rod and drive shaft loop) already "on the shelf" in my garage.  I do have one MAJOR expense left that I will handle in  2013 - the car absolutely need some new tires before I go too far.  This is going to set me back around 400 dollars.

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