Author Topic: Project Firechicken - A 1980 Indy Pace Car Comes Back To Life  (Read 287 times)

highwayhacker

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Last summer in July I came across my dream car for sale on the internet - a 1980 Turbo Trans Am Indy Pace Car. I resisted the temptation to go look at it since we really didn't have the money to buy another car. We had saved up for a big family vacation, and my wife decided she didn't want to do it, and that I should just "...go buy another car!" I left her in a cloud of dust as I picked up a friend and went to see the car. The original owner had recently passed away, and his son was selling it. The car had only 67k miles on it, and was fairly clean. It was in primer, and sitting on Camaro rims.



The headliner was sagged, carpet faded, engine pretty dirty, but it start and ran (although not real well), and had no accidents, rust, or damage. We decided to make an offer and to our surprise it was accepted. I gave a deposit and made arrangements to come back for the car in a day or two. I was even happier to find out he had the original turbo rims, some extra body parts, and a brand new turbo and wastegate, plus the complete decal kit! Bonus!

After it was registered and insured, we drove it home, sort of. It stalled every time I had to stop, and ran kind of rough. I just wanted to drive it home rather than rely on a tow. I got it home, and we began the restoration, first replacing the headliner (so we could see when driving) and the mechanicals. As I do this thread, I'll try to include the costs associated with each step, and the time if possible.

HEADLINER REPLACEMENT, SUN VISOR REPAIR, TRIM PAINT:
Parts: $220 (Headliner, sun visor supports, paint)
Completed: July 2018, 3hrs just me (and probably a few beers)

Being a T-Top car, the headliner was easy for me to do by myself. I loosened the screws to the front and rear window trim to drop the old headliner down. I also removed all the trim around the t-tops and by the rear seatbelts. I planned to paint it later anyway as it was faded. I also removed both sun visors and the dome light. The old headliner came out easily in 1 piece. I took some time to paint multiple coats on the trim pieces along with some clear to make sure they had time to dry before I put them back into place.



The new headliner was also easy to install. The trick is not to remove the front and rear window trim, just loosen it enough to hold the new headliner in place as you secure it properly. Once the new headliner was in the front and rear supports, I put in the dome light and sun visors to hold it in place, then the seat belt trim, and finally tightened the front and rear trim. It came out pretty good.

   

In the pictures you can see how the new headliner came out, along with the repaint of the trim. I used SEM paints and the color matched perfectly. Before re-installing the sun visors I removed the old supports, cleaned up inside where they mount, and installed the new ones. Everything is much tighter and the chrome looks great.

Next - onto some electrical and mechanical - we replace the crappy aftermarket radio and fix the amp, and make the car drive-able (and stop-able) again.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2019, 12:21:17 PM by highwayhacker »

737driver

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Re: Project Firechicken - A 1980 Indy Pace Car Comes Back To Life
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2019, 11:16:10 AM »
You did a really nice job on the headliner. Looks like it turned out great.
1979 Trans Am- Heritage Brown -W72 (Pontiac 400) -4Speed-WS6
1972 LeMans Convertible
1977 Trans Am
1972 Firebird
1971 Firebird
1970 Firebird
1977 MGB  Roadster Convertible

737driver

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Re: Project Firechicken - A 1980 Indy Pace Car Comes Back To Life
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2019, 11:30:25 AM »
Btw, if your are looking for an original set of Turbo rims I had a complete set I traded with Second Gen Graveyard. John and his wife are the owners and John is a really great guy to work with. The rims I traded with him were in pretty decent shape and easily restorable. To the best of my knowledge they were correct for the white turbo pace cars and worth a look into. Here is the link in case your interested.
Jim

https://www.secondgengraveyard.com/
1979 Trans Am- Heritage Brown -W72 (Pontiac 400) -4Speed-WS6
1972 LeMans Convertible
1977 Trans Am
1972 Firebird
1971 Firebird
1970 Firebird
1977 MGB  Roadster Convertible

Jack

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Re: Project Firechicken - A 1980 Indy Pace Car Comes Back To Life
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2019, 12:02:20 PM »
The interior looks brand new and you did a great job with the headliner. It sure helps finding a clean car.




Regards, Jack

roadking77

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Re: Project Firechicken - A 1980 Indy Pace Car Comes Back To Life
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2019, 02:28:51 PM »
Looking forward to seeing the finished paint job. I'll say it again, the white pace cars are top of the list for me.
Finished!
77 T/A - I will Call this one DONE!
79 TATA 4sp-Next Project?
79 TATA - Lost to Fire!
86 Grand Prix - Sold
85 T/A - Sold
85 Fiero - Sold
82 Firebird - Sold
'38-CZ 250
'39-BSA Gold Star
'49-Triumph 350
'52-Ariel Red Hunter
'66-BSA Lightning
'01-HD RoadKing

Re: Project Firechicken - A 1980 Indy Pace Car Comes Back To Life
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2019, 02:28:51 PM »

highwayhacker

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Re: Project Firechicken - Part Duex: Wires Wires Everywhere
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2019, 04:15:42 AM »
RADIO REPLACEMENT, WIRING REPAIRS, AMP RE-WIRING, TRUNK CLEANUP
Parts: Radio $153, Paint $10, Assorted wires and connectors: $5-ish
Completed: July 2018, 3hrs, just me.

Next step for the pace car was cleaning up the wiring. The previous owner had installed a crappy aftermarket radio, but a decent amp and good speakers. Problem was the radio only played out of 2 speakers and the wiring looked like this:

 

Whats worse, the wires for the radio were held together with wire nuts, not a good idea in vehicle and marine applications. Since everything in the car was Alpine, and I determined the AMP and speakers to be good, I ordered a new Alpine head unit with satellite radio and bluetooth. Oddly enough it was cheaper than a non satellite model. I remove the old radio and wiring harness and installed the new one using soldered heat shrink connectors. Next step was to clean up the wires in the trunk, correctly wire the AMP, and mount it properly. I managed to find the manual to the AMP online and got it wired up. Now everything works great and sounds awesome!

   

I also cleaned up the carpet and re-painted the black on the side and back walls of the trunk. Looks like brand new under there now. Since I am having such fun with the electrical stuff, the next project is to repair the gauge cluster.

highwayhacker

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Re: Project Firechicken -Gauge Cluster-Fuss
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2019, 09:29:35 AM »
This was probably one of my least favorite parts of the restoration. I've done circuit boards before on Oldsmobiles and other Firebirds, and its never fun. Remembering these cars are old, everything has to be removed gently to avoid breaking a piece that is hard or impossible to replace.

PROJECT: Repair Gauge Cluster, Clean up Dash Bezel
PARTS: Circuit Board $70, Bulbs $2 each, Patience: $0, Beer $147.50, Oil Pressure Sender: $10, Choke Relay $22, More Beer $110.87, Chrome Paint Pen: $11.50
Time: 4hrs

We had a few problems with  the gauge cluster - Not all the lights were working, the oil pressure didn't work, the other gauges worked 80% of the time, and the choke light kept coming on with a clicking noise.

The first step was to remove the dash bezel to access the gauge cluster. There is a great video on Youtube courtesy of F-Body Warehouse for that. LINK: https://youtu.be/MUA_y66cWnc

Once that was out of the way, it was easy to access and remove the existing cluster. Once I got it out, I noticed some of the contacts where the wiring harness connector plugs into the back were lifted up and not making good contact. I ordered another board from Classic Industries and removed the old board. Once the new board came installation was easy, and I replaced all the bulbs at this time as well with new ones. During this time I also spoke to a few people about the choke light and clicking noise. The clicking noise is the choke relay, which could be bad. Other issues could be the choke itself, and issues with the alternator. The choke relay was fairly simple to replace, so I started with that. I also replaced the oil pressure sender on the engine block asn the old one seemed gummed up. Once everything was back together it looked nice and pretty, ready to install.



This is where you need the beer. Connecting the wire harness to the cluster sounds simple, but you have to be delicate so you don't break the connections on the circuit board. It took a little time to do it right. Once it was done I tested everything before fastening everything in place. Finally, everything is working correctly again! Or at least, for now. This was also a great time to clean up the dash bezel while it was off, and re-paint the little chrome trim lines as well as glue the bezels back into place. Looks great now!

 

F-Body Warehouse has a video on You Tube regarding how to replace the circuit board: https://youtu.be/YIY9iu1KH2g
Inline Tube also offers a chrome paint pen. This will be your best friend when restoring your dash, bezels, and other plastic parts. Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06XY6HYYJ/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Next up - We get started on the mechanicals and install an Air Induction kit from TTA Performance.

Box

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Re: Project Firechicken - A 1980 Indy Pace Car Comes Back To Life
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2019, 08:00:58 PM »
Wow, the car looks a lot nicer than the exterior would have you believe.  Once you get it painted and sort out the gremlins you should be set.  I also really like the price and time format you're doing, helps gives those looking to get into a project a better idea of what to expect.

1996 Pontiac Firebird Formula hardtop 6-speed

roadking77

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Re: Project Firechicken - A 1980 Indy Pace Car Comes Back To Life
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2019, 07:16:08 AM »
I too like the breakdowns. How nice is the finish with the chrome pen? I have been using a silver leafing pen that I got at a craft store. It works really nice, but the finish is silver. I would like to be able to brighten the lines  up a bit with more of a chrome finish.
Finished!
77 T/A - I will Call this one DONE!
79 TATA 4sp-Next Project?
79 TATA - Lost to Fire!
86 Grand Prix - Sold
85 T/A - Sold
85 Fiero - Sold
82 Firebird - Sold
'38-CZ 250
'39-BSA Gold Star
'49-Triumph 350
'52-Ariel Red Hunter
'66-BSA Lightning
'01-HD RoadKing

highwayhacker

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  • 1980 Turbo Trans Am Indy Pace Car
Re: Project Firechicken - A 1980 Indy Pace Car Comes Back To Life
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2019, 01:16:51 PM »
I too like the breakdowns. How nice is the finish with the chrome pen? I have been using a silver leafing pen that I got at a craft store. It works really nice, but the finish is silver. I would like to be able to brighten the lines  up a bit with more of a chrome finish.

The finish with the chrome pen I linked too is near perfect and pretty much indistinguishable from the original. I was using chrome model paint prior to finding this pen, and that too came out silver. With the pen it comes out chrome.

I'm glad everyone likes the breakdowns. This is my second project, and no too are the same. Our first was a 1986 Oldsmobile 442. It took 7 years to bring it back - it was junkyard bound when we found it. That was a complete restoration including an engine rebuilt, paint, bodywork, ect... I wish I knew what I was getting into but my wife loves the car so.... Having been through that, and now having a better grasp on costs and time, I thought it would be helpful. The firechicken is going to be at most a 10 month build if I get it back next month, which I should. Big difference from 7 years!

highwayhacker

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Re: Project Firechicken - Air Induction Installation
« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2019, 04:07:52 AM »
PROJECT: Install TTA Performance Air Induction w/ New Turbo Lights
Cost: $375 + shipping
Time: 1hr, just me, no beer needed
Web Site Link: https://ttaperformance.com/

One thing everyone seems to agree on is that the Turbo engines create a lot of hot air under the hood. One way to help with that and to let the engine breath cooler air is with an air induction kit. TTA Performance in Kenosha Wi is a 301T expert, and they have a number of products for the turbo cars. The owner, Joe, is also an excellent source of information and an expert on these cars. He really helped me get some of the big issues with my car diagnosed.

The TTA kit makes the hood scoop on the car functional. You get a new insert with openings (with or without lights), and everything else needed. The great thing is that there are no permanent modifications to the car. You can remove it at any time. Its a 3 step process: First, I removed my old turbo light cluster in the scoop and installed the new one. It plugged right into my existing harness with the included connectors for the lights. Keep in mind the new lights in the TTA kit are LED and as such you need to make sure the + and - are connected properly or else they won't work. Second, remove the air cleaner cover, install a new K&N filter, chrome cover, and air cleaner seal on the outside of the air cleaner base. And the last step - slide in the aluminum hood pan.

It was really that simple. Some pictures:

   

 

One of the things I noticed on the car is that it runs noticeably cooler (and this is before I did any mechanical work) and it's not as hot under the hood as it was before the air induction. It doesn't make the car any faster, but the improvements are noted in other ways and in my opinion it was a great purchase. I plan to get the 2.5" downpipe and exhaust from him next!

Now that we have the air induction installed, we get started on the mechanicals.

highwayhacker

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Re: Project Firechicken - Now with new rims and shoes!
« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2019, 04:01:27 PM »
PROJECT: Powdercoat Rims, New tires
COSTS: $100 per rim powdercoat, $65 set of 4 centercaps, Set of 4 245/60R15 BFG's mount/balance/stems $876
TIME: Just driving around delivering/picking up rims and waiting at shop for install

Before we get started on the mechanicals we had the original rims powdercoated. I received the stripped of paint and without tires on them, so it was a fairly simple process. I called several places to get quotes and everyone but 2 places were backed up months. Fortunately, one of the places that my car friends recommended said I could drop them off whenever I wanted and it would take a few days. True to their word, it took 2 days and I had my rims back. They came out great. I loaded them in the truck and took them to my friends shop for some new BFG tires. Here is the final product:

   

Now, I know what you are going to say - they are missing the silver trim on the turbo spokes and around the rim. Yes they are. Here's why. Doing them this way, was $100 a rim. To do the process with I believe the term was "beading" but I could be wrong, would be at $250 a rim. Aftermarket rims from Classic are $199 a rim. My budget was $100 a rim. I can get the beading done in the future, which I will. I prefer to have the original rims on the car. There were a few imperfections in the original rims and a few chunks missing here and there, and the powdercoat shop did repair those so they look like new. We also got new GM restoration center caps to replace the worn original ones.

OK, now we can get on with the mechanicals!

Re: Project Firechicken - Now with new rims and shoes!
« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2019, 04:01:27 PM »
You can help support TAC!