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Project Camaro
Project Car Issues

March 2, 2019
By Scott Lewis

Wow, it has been 5 months since my last post. I have gotten way too busy being involved with 3 car clubs, and some ramping up with photography. I will try to catch you up over the next couple of months on what has happened to the Camaro, and the next items on my plans to make the car as drivable as possible.

This month we will cover a couple of issues that came up on my maiden voyage with the new coilovers on my 1968 Camaro. Feel free to read that to refresh your memory.

The day after I finished the install of the QA1 Coilovers I went on a drive with the Ferrari Club. I managed to keep up with the Ferraris on some nice Texas Hill Country roads. Sweet!

The Ferrari directly in front of me tended to lag behind the others in front of him. This made getting great photos through my windshield less than ideal (a friend of mine was taking the photos). Also, the Ferrari in front of me was a little too "brake happy." He hit the brakes as I was getting close to him on too many occasions. I do not believe he was doing that to keep me off his rear, but because he was reacting to road conditions and his own following distance to the car in front of him.

Regardless, this made it difficult for me to maintain my pace. Seeing brake lights on a car worth 10 times as much as mine had me jumping on my brakes more than I would have liked. Also, some of the roads were rather narrow, and I got worried I would get off the road a little (loose gravel on the side). So my driving was not the best, but I did keep up. I was very impressed with the grip of the suspension and tires.

The car still moves around too much. Of course with a front sway bar the thickness of a pencil, body lean was excessive. This might impact my next upgrade. I may go for a heavier front sway bar and add a rear sway bar (actually they are anti-sway bars). Hopefully that will reduce body lean a lot. Some of the movement is due to all the soft rubber throughout the car. Eventually I will replace the body mount bushings as well as the usual rubber suspension pieces (control arm bushings, ball joints, end links, etc.). I am pretty sure some kind of bolt in subframe connectors may happen.

Finally, the steering leaves a lot to be desired. This is not a surprise given this car has a 50 year old manual steering setup. I am still wrestling with whether I should go with a power steering unit. I really like the idea of sticking with manual steering for that "close to stock" part of my goals. How tight can the steering get with a manual steering box. The stock unit is 24:1. I can get a 16:1. Could I even leverage 16:1 manual steering in a parking lot? Hopefully a new steering box and replacing all the steering bits (tie rod ends, center link, pitman arm, etc) will tighten it up enough to really enjoy those twisty roads.

Problems

The above really just describes how the car performed on the drive. Now for the actual problems.

1) On the spirited drive to our destination the car scraped a number of times. This was all pretty light scraping. The car never bottomed out. I took a quick look under the car and I could not see any scrape marks. I did notice that the exhaust crossover (the car has single exhaust) runs under the engine and seems to be the lowest point on the car up front. If this is what scraping it will be taken care of when I eventually add dual exhaust. Or... a dual exhaust system might reduce my ground clearance more. That is far down the road. I have not had any issue with the car in normal driving. I think the front ride height is just about perfect. I expect to do a little tweaking of the shocks in a couple of weeks.

2) About half way back my GEN light came on. This means I am not charging the battery and the car is running off the battery. Good thing the only electric items in use was the ignition system and the radio.

3) The car got pretty hot (to me) when we hit a wall of bumper to bumper traffic. When the temperature hit 220 degrees and looked like it would keep going I pulled over and shut the car down. After a few minutes I open the radiator and topped it off with coolant (I had some gloves & fluid in the trunk... just in case). The car ran at 190 the rest of the day. I am still concerned. The car regularly runs at 190-210 with a 180 degree thermostat.

Let's start with the GEN light. This means that either the alternator or the regulator are not working. I removed the alternator and took it to the auto parts store to have it tested. It failed. I ordered an alternator and a 160 degree thermostat online. When the alternator came I installed it and... nothing. The GEN light is still on.

I went to an auto parts store that had the correct regulator in stock. I got home with that and spent all of 5 minutes swapping it out. It immediately removed the GEN light. Sweet!

What about the overheating? I am still on the fence about installing the 160 degree thermostat. My research says it won't actually prevent the car from overheating if there is a problem with the cooling system as a whole. Then again, this is South Central Texas and it gets HOT here. So far the car has only gone over 210 degrees when idling for a long period of time.

Should I try the lower degree thermostat? Theoretically a lower thermostat will just get the cooling system flowing fluid sooner, but ultimately does not change anything if the car starts creeping past 200. Once the thermostat is open, it does nothing more to effect the ability to keep the car cool.

Time to try and diagnose this issue. The radiator is in great shape. The fluid looks brand new. I had no trouble putting the coolant right back in after replacing the original thermostat (with a 180 degree the week before). The water pump seems to be flowing fluid just fine as well. The factory engineered this system to work in these conditions. Or did it? This car has a California Smog Pump. That means it was destined for California, which never gets as hot as is does in San Antonio. But it is not that hot... yet.

What's not working up to snuff? The radiator is clean and the fins are good and the water is flowing. Check! Thermostat is opening (regardless of what temp it is opening), Check! The water pump is flowing. Check!

OK. So the temperature only rises when it is idling for extended periods. The first time was while I was sitting in line at the bank drive through. The second time was on the Ferrari drive.

Air Flow!

At this point I have to assume this is related to air flow. The shroud is in excellent condition. What about the fan? More importantly... what about the fan clutch? There is no fan clutch! And it is only a 4 blade fan. Yikes!

I talked with my friend that owns an auto restoration shop. He said I have plenty of options. First, he said 220 is NOT overheating. 250 is overheating. So I am being paranoid (cautious!!).

What are some of the options I have for upgrading the cooling system?

1) Increase air flow. I can do this one of several ways. An easy choice is with an electric fan. I could get a "pusher" electric fan and mount it in front of the radiator and have it thermostatically controlled to come on at 200 degrees. I can also get a 6 or 8 blade fan. I can also go with a clutch fan so that when the temperature doesn't need it the fan is not a drain on power.

2) Increase capacity. The radiator is a fairly small 2 row radiator. I can upgrade the radiator to a 3 or 4 row radiator... that is a straight bolt in. This should help, but without the increase in air flow it might not help the long idling temperature. Plus this is more expensive than increasing air flow.

3) Add an overflow tank. Currently the car just has a tube running off the radiator by the cap. If the system hits 16 psi (the cap rating) it will push some coolant out that hose... and dump it on the ground. I can mount an overflow tank and run that line to the tank. Then a new line from the tank for dumping. This will essentially increase the capacity some. I want to research this a little more. I am concerned when fluid gets pushed out into the overflow tank, how will it get back into the radiator when it cools. Since that will reduce the pressure in the system the radiator cap will likely prevent coolant from coming back in. At least this is how my mind is thinking. I need to do more research on this option.

4) Be less paranoid. If 220-230 is not overheating than I just need to be less paranoid. But as summer approaches I need to keep an eye on it. If 220-230 idling in traffic is happening now, what happens when it is 100+ degrees out? 230 could turn into 250... and that is overheating.

Conclusion

None of this is really much of an issue. This car is 50 years old. Also, based on the condition it seems it lived a fairly pampered life. I am probably driving it harder (like on a Ferrari drive) than it has been driven in many years. It is expected that some things need to be sorted out, like the alternator/regulator & cooling. Fortunately, there are not many systems in this car to sort.

I am trying to make the car a viable daily driver, though I will NOT drive it daily. I do want it to be ready to go at a moments notice. I want to drive it as much as possible on the weekends.
Running Total
Previous Total $28,124.19
Alternator $57.99
Regulator $55.99
   
Current Total $28,238.17
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