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Old 02-11-2008, 11:18 AM
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Cars can be funny sometimes, can't they?

I'll warn ya right off the bat - this gets a bit long (and I left stuff out, too ). I thought it could make for an interesting discussion how cars and vehicles can have their own personalities at times, like my truck ('79 K10) which revels in being a POS pain in my ***, or my '78 Trans Am which . . . well, see below . . . (I wrote this to post on a local club board, but thought some here might get a kick out of it as well).

Cars can be funny sometimes, can't they?

I kinda came to this conclusion yesterday, when I took my '78 T/A out for a good long cruise around the area. I actually wasn't sure if I would be able to do that either since yesterday was the first time I've turned the key in over a year and a half - it had been relegated to "garage art" and "storage shelf" since I last parked it because the valvetrain was making some horrendous noises the last time I had started it up, and because I was focusing all my effort on other stuff.

So earlier last week I decided that I was gonna try to get it running again for my b-day on Sun. Spent a couple days cleaning up the garage and cleaning off the car, then pulled the valve covers and re-adjusted the valves (correctly, this time!). Saturday comes around and I put the engine back together, aired up the tires, checked the brakes, changed the oil (had to get a new filter wrench cause I couldn't find mine), connected the battery and turned the key to see if it had enough juice to at least turn over . . . Nope. There was just enough juice to run the clock, so hooked it up the the charger and did some more re-organizing. I wasn't surprised that I had to re-charge the battery, since it's been in the car (disconnected the whole time, of course) and unused for all this time. After a couple hours on the charger, I try to bump the starter again and nothing. The gauges will move, but when I turn the key everything dies. Ok, since it was getting dark around now I figured I'd leave it for Sun and fiddle with it some more then.

Sunday comes around and I hook the battery back up to the charger for a couple more hours while I continue cleaning and re-organizing the garage. Try to turn it over yet again and yet again there's nothing. Ok . . . well, there's the old battery out of the truck, let's see if that makes a difference . . . hook the truck battery up to the charger (this battery hasn't been used in the past two years, and has been sitting on a cold, damp, concrete garage floor the whole time as well) for an hour or so, and then throw that one into the T/A. Turn the key and Holy ****! It still works!

Alright, now that we have power, time to get some fuel. I siphon a small amount out of my '00 T/A since it's still fresh (the gas in the '78 is nice and old, and didn't have any stabilizer in it to boot), and pour some into the carb's bowls in the '78. Work the butterflys a little bit, shoot some starting fluid down the bores, and turn the key . . . and the engine kicks over for a second. Hey, progress! Ok, shoot some more starting fluid down the carb and try it again, and I'll be damned - the b**** fires right up ! Feather the gas for a bit, then let off the go pedal to see if it'll run on it's own and it stays idling at 1500 RPM (choke engaged, of course) . . . it's making a hell of a racket, though, so let's see if I can figure out what's making so much noise . . . I check this, I check that, then notice that I forgot to re-connect the vacuum line to the brake booster . I also notice that the top of the primary fuel bowl is wet with gas, so turn the car back on (hot damn . . . didn't even hesitate to restart) and re-check things. The engine noise is gone, now, but the gas leak is coming from the float adjustment screw (Holley 4150, 650 DP), so turn the car off and put a new gasket under the bowl screw. Turn it back on and the gas leak is now fixed. Since it appears that all problems have been accounted for, I proceed to back it out of the garage and let 'er idle and warm up for a little while. I then proceed to make sure everything is in-line and good-to-go (temp, oil pressure, insurance, registration). Get in the driver's seat, open the manual choke to let the idle speed drop to ~1000 RPM, and work my way out of the driveway towards the open road while noticing that the clutch still engages as smoothly and easily as I remember.

Moment of Truth! I check to make sure that the coast is clear and then . . . HIT IT! (Probably not the smartest thing to do when I'm not sure how well it'll run, but hey . . . couldn't help myself ) I hit 45 MPH, then pull 2nd gear and go for more . . . course there's a car in front of me so I can't go too much more, but damn! It still responds as well as I remember! Open the choke full open and also notice - at the first stop sign - that it idles at ~850 RPM with that nice "let's roll" rumble. Just like old times . . .

An hour-and-a-half and 1/2-tank of gas later, I pull into my driveway and proceed to put it away for the night. First thought that comes to mind is God D***** am I cold (no heater, and all I had on was my jeans, long-sleeved t-shirt, short-length leather jacket and mechanics gloves and it was probably in the high 20's at the time)!! Second thought I had was "I don't believe it! This car acts as if it was last run a week ago, not over a year ago!". Very surprising, I must say since the odds looked like they were against me. Cars can be funny sometimes, can't they?

So to summarize: My '78 Trans Am - which has been sitting for the past year-and-a-half - started up, idled, and ran like it was used on a daily basis. Despite having old, un-stabilized gas and a previously dead battery. This was all the more surprising cause I didn't check timing, fiddle with the advance, adjust the carb, or clean the windows (aside from the windshield). All I did was inflate the tires, change the oil, charged the battery, turned the key and away we went! Heh, maybe I do know what I'm doing when it comes to automotive work.

Stats for those who might not know the car:
- 1978 Pontiac Trans-Am hardtop. Red w/black interior and lots of cancer.
- Original 400ci engine (Don't know if any internal changes have been made) & 4-spd manual
- Holley 4150-style carb. 650CFM w/mechanical secondaries and manual choke
- Edelbrock Performer intake (I don't remember if it's the standard or RPM. Whatever fits under the hood with clearance for the shaker)
- Tri-Y headers into owner-built 2.5" true-dual mandrel-bent exhaust with X-pipe and Warlock mufflers.
- 4.10 posi in the rear axle.
- Manual windows, manual locks, no radio (yet), no heater (gotta change this), no A/C, no rear-defrost.

- Mike

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Old 02-11-2008, 05:49 PM
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Go Old Time Pontiac Power!

Makes you wonder what all this Puter stuff is overrated huh?

Um..... you might want to check the rocker nuts for fatigue cracks because Pontiac 's do not have adjustable lifters .

You sock um down & forget about it ...unless you got some kind of after market stuff.

Good story


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Don't let the bastards grind you down!

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Old 02-12-2008, 09:52 AM
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Great write up!!


Jay K.
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Old 02-13-2008, 10:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Rob Keller
Um..... you might want to check the rocker nuts for fatigue cracks because Pontiac 's do not have adjustable lifters .

You sock um down & forget about it ...unless you got some kind of after market stuff.
Er . . . well . . . I'm still somewhat of a neophyte when it comes to automotive mechanics (This T/A was my first ever project car, and only did an oil-change previously), so . . . earlier when I was still driving it, I could hear the valvetrain through the hood - sounded like a ticker-tape machine. Well, I thought that this was a Bad Thing, so proceeded to re-check and adjust the rockers. Since the top-end is still the stock stamped, non-adjustable style, and since you just torque the nuts to 20 ft/lbs and call it a day . . . I, uh, figured it didn't matter if the lifters were on the base circle or not It worked fine (meaning the sounds didn't change) while testing it out after that, so I had added a 1/2-bottle of Marvel Mystery Oil to clean things out (I thought that maybe the lifters were stuck or something was gummed up). Shortly after that was when it really sounded bad - I mean I could hear the valvetrain noise from the driver's seat. It was then that I parked it with the intention of re-doing the adjustments correctly and changing the oil.

FYI, it's back to sounding like a ticker-tape machine (stamped steel chrome valve covers and no insulation on the hood), so maybe it's just general wear-and-tear since it seems to be all of 'em, not just localized to one or two cylinders. Either that, or I'm just experiencing what old muscle cars originally sounded like.

Thanks for the too . . . I just kept on writing since I was re-experiencing everything again and didn't realize it got so long until later.

- Mike
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