The Wreck and the Rebuild

September first, 1999. 4 months after the new paint job. 2 months after the tranny rebuild. The H/O was totalled by a woman with a suspended license. I'll spare you the details, but she was completely at fault, and the car in her husband's name had insurance. I'm all healed up, but the H/O isn't quite, yet.

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The insurance company declared it totalled by a narrow margin.

I considered my options, replace or rebuild, and decided that I could rebuild it. Better, faster, stronger. We have the technology. I bought back the hulk, and used a portion of the money to build the dream garage I've always wanted (gotta have a place to fix it *in*). The rest went towards parts.

This time I'm going full frame-off restoration. While the frame could be straightened, a new frame is much less expensive and I know it will be done right, as good as new. While the frame is off, it's a good time to detail the underside, firewall, POR-15 the frame, fix the rear main seal leak, and rebuild the suspension.

And so begins a long process. If all goes well I hope to have the car driveable by summer of 2001, and completely finished (repainted) by 2002. It took a while to get started, since the first task was building a garage, and completing my assortment of tools and equipment to handle the task. And then there was just plain disgust with the whole wrecked car, I couldn't bear to look at my baby for quite a while. Some pictures of the progress follow.

Here you see the new frame, degreased and ready for stripping and painting.

Body is off the frame.

Rebuilt suspension on new frame. Del-a-lum control arm bushings, poly bushings elsewhere, Moog 5660 springs, Bilstein shocks, drilled and slotted rotors, carbon-metallic brake pads, and basically new or cleaned and painted everything.

Rebuilding the front end seemed intimidating at first, but it's really not. It's a lot of work, especially if you're going the extra mile to clean and repaint everything, but nothing too technical. If you're going to attempt this job, you'll need the following tools:

I'm not going to give a step-by step on how to rebuild the front end (mostly because I didn't take notes), you don't really need instructions anyhow, just start taking parts off and putting new ones on. But I can offer some tips: I redid my rear suspension with 1LE camaro bushings (GM part number 10164152). They're a little stiffer rubber than the stock ones, and don't squeak and bind like polyurethane. The rear suspension is far simpler than the front. I had the bushings in the control arms pressed in at a machine shop, but I did the two in the rear housing myself. Here's the best way I found to do it for the at home mechanic who doesn't have a press or the fancy GM tools mentioned in the Chassis Manual.

Drill through the bushing with a 1/4" drill bit, make lots of holes all the way around and all the way through, space them as close as you can. Eventually the center section will start to come loose. Yank and twist on the center section with a pair of vice grips and pull it out. Use a pair of pliers to pull out the rest of the rubber bits. Cut two slits in the edge of the bushing shell (180 degrees apart) and then start whacking on one side between the slits with a hammer and chisel. Use an ordinary nail-driving hammer, not a big sledge, you don't want to break off the ears from the rear end. Collapse the shell and pull it out.

Clean the hole up, sand it lightly, and apply a thin layer of grease. Put your new bushings in the freezer for a few hours, or overnight if you can. If weather permits, leave your rear end out in the sun where it can get hot. This contracts the bushings and expands the holes, making the next step easier. Obtain a 1 1/2" pipe cap (cast iron) from the hardware store. This fits perfectly over the flanged end of the bushing. Place cap over bushing and drive it into the hole (again, use the small hammer and lots of little taps).

The new frame with suspension, ready to go.

Front shot of the new frame.

Rear shot. Sway bar and shocks not yet installed.

And now, we're really making some progress. Unite the body with the frame!

New frame rolled underneath and centered, with the help of my shop assistant.

Front Shot, note I rolled the tranny underneath first.

Wow, it looks like a car!

Close-up of the new poly mount in #2 position.

All hooked up and ready for a test fire.

Same as above, but closer in.

My nice clean underbody, everything painted, cleaned, etc. New cat too.

The mid-section (Y pipe) of the Hooker exhaust.

The new Hooker Maximum Flow mufflers.

She runs and drives! Though not exactly street legal yet :-) At this point I'm just out testing to make sure everything (like brakes) work before loading it onto the flatbed truck for delivery to the body shop for installation and alignment of the front clip.

Back from the body shop! All new sheet metal from the firewall forward, aligned even better than it fit originally.

Front view of new clip. Lots of detail work now before its ready for painting.

In the paint booth with a coat of sealer.

The finished product! All together with new stripes, new tires, weatherstripping, etc. Inspected, licenced, through emmissions, and insured! *whew*

Side view, a close up of the lauren stage 1 body kit. It blends in very well, most people do not notice that it's out of place.

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