Bruce's '72: 2002-2004

(Newest update at the bottom)

I'm joining the artifically-aspirated crowd. Why? Power, of course! I was running about 12.9s naturally aspirated with a streetable package but with gearing that wasn't exactly Autobahn-friendly (4.10s). Also, I felt that other than a cylinder head upgrade, there wasn't much else I could do to get more power/acceleration without futher sacrificing driveability without going with a big-block or an external power adder, so a power adder it is!

I've broken up this page because it was getting so large, so if you want more about the turbo project, click the appropriate links below. Just scroll down below the turbo links for the 2002-2004 chronological write-up.

Turbo Project Information: Click here for info on how this is all getting set up and organized and all that. Includes a turbo conversion parts list and also pictures and explanation of everything.

Progress Pictures: If you want to see lots of pictures, click here for a pile of categorized thumbnails of my project that you can click on for full-sized images.

2002

Problem! And a significant one at that. I cleaned the block and crank, put in the new bearings, installed the crank, and started wiping down the cyinders to prepare for piston/rod installation when I found this in cylinder #4.

And this on #6.

Okay, so I've got a cracked block. Peachy. Well, by the end of 2002 I found a 1970 4-bolt 350 shortblock that looks original (cast on June 18, 1970 in the five o'clock hour (or is it the fifth hour?) during the night shift) but it has a little rust in the cylinders. The machine shop took care of everything just after New Years Day...

2003 - Turbo Project


The Block
The block ($200 for used 4-bolt short block) was bored .030" over and honed ($96), decked to 9.010" ($60), and hot tanked ($55). The rods were removed from my old hypereutectic pistons, resized (the big end was too tight causing bad bearing wear) ($78), and pressed onto new TRW L2256 forged pistons ($20 for the pressing, $225 for the pistons). The experience with the machine shop was very pleasant and from what I've seen so far, the work they did has been great. I don't have a ton of experience, but I've NEVER seen a block this clean.

On the down side, there was a broken-off water pump bolt in one of the holes that I didn't notice when I brought the block in for machining. They did notice it and marked it so I'd see it, but they never called my attention to it. Technically there's nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but it seems like they should have told me - maybe they could have made a few more bucks off me! I ended up drilling it out (which was a pain because there seemed to be a broken-off Easy-out in there, too) and tapped it for a 7/16" bolt.

Also, I asked the machine shop to remove the oil galley plugs because I couldn't. Well, they did it, but they didn't remove the plug just above the oil filter, nor did they remove the plug that's next to the oil pressure sender port. Perhaps they may not be "oil galley" plugs, exactly, which is what I asked them to remove, but again, it seems logical for them to remove them, doesn't it? Oh well.

I had a heck of a time removing the plugs myself. I broke a couple 1/4" extensions trying to loosen the plugs the old-fashioned way. I tried Liquid Wrench, heat (propane only), and the wax trick. No luck with any of them. Then I saw an article in Car Craft dealing with broken stud removal. They put a nut on the exposed broken stud and welded it to the stud, then just used the nut to turn the stud out. The heat from the welding helps break the bond, and the hex provides something for the wrench to grip.

I figured that might work on these plugs, so I welded a 5/16" bolt to the block plug above the oil filter. The bolt twisted right off. I admit, it was a cheap, small bolt. So I then welded a 3/8" nut to the plug and used that to remove it. Worked like a charm! But the plug near the oil pressure sender port was recessed into the block about a quarter-inch. No easy task. I ended up basically filling the hole with MIG weld bead until it was above the surface of the block, then welded a washer to that, and then a big 7/16" nut to the washer. Out it came! I love tips like that.

After the plugs were out I cleaned the passageways and the rest of the block again and it was ready for installation of new block plugs and everything else.

Update: 2/18/03
I got the pistons/rods and crank all cleaned up and ready for installation. I put the block plugs in (except for the cam plug and two rear freeze plugs, since I can't access those areas thanks to the design of my engine stand), cleaned and installed the upper main bearings, then the crank, then washed the main caps, put the lower bearings into the caps, and bolted the caps to the block with new ARP main bolts. I screwed up and installed them without washers the first time around, but by about 1am I had removed, reinstalled, and retorqued all the main bolts. Cool!

2/19/03
I got the pistons/rods installed, along with the cam, timing set, oil pump, and front cover.

2/20/03
I added drainback "ports" to the oil pan to take oil from the turbos back into the pan. I had to cut two 3/4" holes in the pan near the top towards the front of the engine and weld some heater hose fittings to the pan. My welding skills aren't great and neither is my welder, so I didn't trust the weld bead for a leak-proof connection. As a result, I ran a bead of JB Weld around the joint to prevent leaks. So far so good, I'll post some pictures in a couple days. Here are a couple pics of the JB'd return ports:

I also installed the Vibratech Streetdampr and crank pulley and got the fuel pump plate cleaned up and ready for installation.

2/21/03
I only got the oil pan installed on the 21st, but unfortunately I got nothing else done over the weekend.

2/24/03
I got the heads cleaned up, drilled two new coolant passages in the deck of the block as recommended by FelPro, and set the heads in place. Then I realized I had no head bolts! I must have included them when I sold my last set of heads. I'll have to stop by a Chevy dealership and get a new set of bolts and stop by a parts store for a Holley DP rebuild kit. Speaking of the carb, I got it apart, soaked it in a carb bath, and got it mostly cleaned up. I also found out that it appears to be a 600cfm double-pumper rather than a 650 as I was told by the seller. Not sure what to do about that at this point.

2/25/03
I ordered a Midwest converter on the 25th, a 3000 stall job with a "soft hit" stator so the tires don't get blown away quite so quickly when I feed a little throttle. I also got head bolts and a carb kit on the 25th and proceeded to bolt down the heads as well as the intake. Naturally, no sooner had I completed those tasks when I found my old head bolts and intake bolts. Arghh!! I need to be more careful.

I also came to the conclusion that I didn't want to risk the new engine on a well-used carb, especially a blown engine, so I found a buyer for the old one (the original seller, ironically) and ordered a new Holley 650 double-pumper, #4777. Quite a hit to the pocketbook, but the peace-of-mind should make it worthwhile. It's also good to know I'm set, carb-wise, for several years. At the same time I ordered a deep B&M tranny pan with three quarts extra capacity and an MSD 6BTM. That's basically an MSD 6AL box with a boost timing retard built in. It can retard my timing one to three degrees per pound of boost so I can thwart detonation, yet still have reasonable throttle response and economy when not under boost.

2/26/03
It's painted! Finally.

3/4/03
I got my Corvette cast magnesium valve covers sandblasted and powdercoated. Unfortunately the sandblasting took a loooong time so that's all I got done.

3/6/03
I've now installed a bunch of the time-consuming little stuff including motor mounts, valve covers, oil pressure fittings, coolant plugs, etc. I also modified my fuel pump for boost referencing and modified my new carb for blowthrough use (solid floats, removed choke flange, filled choke rod hole). It's getting very close to installation time.

3/14/03
Unfortunately I've got no updates, I've been extremely busy with other things including my product review of the Eastwood Hot Coat powedercoating system. If you're interested, check it out at www.dragstuff.com.
I'm still hoping to get the engine installed within the next few days.

5/7/03
Well, here it is a "few" days later. I've got the engine in (for the third time - long story) and it's almost ready to fire. I just need to do one mod to my carb, install the ignition, change the tranny pan, filter, and fluid, and I think it's ready. Man, I sure hope so! This has taken WAY too long. I've been very busy with other things lately, but I never thought I'd be looking at firing it up for the first time in MAY! Ughh.

5/8/03
Got the carb on, ignition in, tranny pan, filter, and fluid done, exhaust is hooked up....I think the only thing left is to prime the carb, prime the oil system, fill the cooling system, and hit the key! Wish me luck....

5/9/03
I got the cam broken in on the 9th. Finally! It boiled over after about 20 minutes of break-in, unfortunately. I let it cool, put more water in, and continued. I ran it at the break-in speed for another 10 minutes, dropped it to idle, and after about 30 more seconds of idling it boiled over again. Very frustrating, but I'm SO glad I'm past the break-in and the engine survived just fine. I need to mess with the timing, carb, and a few other things still, but it runs!

5/13/03
My Nova does go! It fires up quickly, after about 15 seconds of help with my right foot it runs great with the chokeless Holley at about 900rpm in Park, about 650-700 in Drive. Gotta love that MSD box! Slight lope at idle, too, which is nice. I was worried it'd be too quiet and mellow. Adding the turbos will probably quiet it down some, however. I set the timing to 14 degrees BTDC, adjusted the mixture screws, set the idle speed, and went for a drive. There's a slight bog right off idle and I've got an exhaust leak (hole in the header where my oxygen sensor used to be), but all in all it runs pretty darn nice! I've still got cooling system issues, but I put about 30 miles on it and it ran great. Life is good. I expect I'll be starting the turbo conversion within a week's time.

5/23/03
I decided to wait until after the Memorial Day Weekend to begin the turbo conversion, I just had too much going on this week. I did get a new welder which should make the rest of the fabrication quite a bit easier than it would have been with the old one. I'm not really sure what I'm going to do first, I guess I'll yank everything that's coming off (headers, overflow tank, mechanical fan, shroud, radiator) first, of course. Then probably drop in the intercooler and radiator to make sure I work around them with my inlet tubing and whatnot. I ordered some 1-5/8" 180-degree mandrel-bent tubing to cut up and use to get the charge air from the compressors to the intercooler and I already have the 3" tubing to use from the turbine to the exhaust system and from the intercooler to the bonnet. The only real unknown that remains is how to monitor fuel pressure and how to design my bonnet. More next week as things really get underway! Meanwhile, I'm sure enjoying driving my Nova, even naturally aspirated.

5/28/03
I haven't gotten too far yet, but I am nearly done with the gear swap from 4.10s to 3.08s. Just gotta slap it all back together tonight and hope the mesh pattern and backlash are good so I can turn my car around and start working on the front end again.

5/29/03
Finally got the gear swap done! I know it's really no big deal, but I've only had a couple hours during each of the last few nights to work on it and I had a few minor problems, so I'm really glad to get it done. I did test drive it too, and everything seems fine. No howling, no whining, nothing. Gotta love used GM factory gears! The 3.08s aren't quite as fun to drive with as the 4.10s were, but cruising at speed sure is quieter with a 25% reduction in rpm. I really, really hope to start removing the exhaust and cooling system and stuff tonight in preparation for the turbo installation. We'll see.

6/2/03
Over the weekend I pulled the old radiator, fan, shroud, and upper hose after draining the cooling system. I dropped the intercooler into place, then the new Northern 2-core larger-than-stock aluminum radiator, and finally the electric fans. Whoa, tight fit! I couldn't even get the fan past the water pump. I then realized I sized all this stuff up when I was still planning to use my stock 3-core radiator. Oops. With the stock radiator, the entire thing was narrower than just the core of the intercooler, so it sat pretty close to the IC giving me more room for the fans. Additionally, the core of the 2-core aluminum is wider than the the core of the 3-core copper/brass old radiator! This might spell problems.

Well, after some creative cutting (those things are over-engineered anyway, right? ;-) ) I was able to get the fans mocked up behind the radiator with adequate clearance everywhere except at the alternator pulley which is extremely close to the wiring of one of the fan motors. I think once everything is mounted securely it'll be okay. I sure hope so!

So I've got the lower mounts of the radiator and intercooler done, I just need to form up a top cover piece to hold them from above and to give the fans a place to attach, and then figure out how to secure the lower fan mounts. After that, all that's left for the cooling system is to do the radiator hoses and fan wiring.

6/3/03
I worked on the fan install and I think this is how it'll end up. Minimal clearance, but I think it will be adequate.

Then I pulled my passenger's side header and mounted up the turbo header. Uhhhh, oops. Anyone want to take the blame for this? I'm guessing I must have put the header together before I obtained the intercooler. At least that's the excuse I'm going with.

Wellllll, I'm going to cut off that 90-degree pipe and flange and put a new tight-radius weld el right off the collector going straight up, then another to point straight back (essentially a 180-degree turn), add a few inches of straight pipe, and add one more 90-degree weld el to direct the exhaust outward towards the side of the car. I'll weld the flange onto that pipe and mount up the turbo. It's frustrating to take a couple steps back, and especially since it'll be uglier and less efficient with the added turns, but that's the way it goes.

I also powdercoated and mounted the air dam I made up last year (to force more air through the intercooler and radiator due to the low-pressure area created behind the air dam) and got started on the bonnet. I bought some 12-gauge 5" O.D. mild steel tubing last week to work with for the bonnet. I knew 5" O.D. wouldn't be large enough, but I couldn't find 5" I.D. with a good wall thickness at the steel place so I got this stuff. To make it work around the carburetor flange I cut a piece 5" long for the bonnet itself, then another 1" tall ring of the tubing. I split that ring, expanded it, and wrapped it around the other piece. That left a 3/4" gap which I filled with an additional piece. So basically I have a 5" O.D. bonnet with a 5" I.D. base. Fits around the carburetor flange perfectly. Here's a picture:

6/4/03
Last night I figured out the dual electric fan wiring and drew up a diagram to follow to set it all up. I'm going to run a 10-gauge power supply to a relay which will be triggered with both a thermostatic switch and a manual switch. That way the fans will come on at 170 degrees with the thermo switch, but I can also switch them on anytime with the manual switch in case the other switch fails or I want additional cooling (below 170). This will also allow me to run the fans with the engine off if desired.

I also fabbed up a cover piece to attach to the radiator core support panel and hold the intercooler, radiator, and fan in place. It still needs some trimming and I'll powdercoat it when it's done. It isn't anywhere near perfect, but I'm pretty happy with it as my first attempt and for not having a sheet metal brake. It took a long time to do, but it should be worth it.

6/5/03
Didn't get a much exciting stuff done last night, but I did finish the radiator cover. I still need to powdercoat it, but other than that it's ready to go. I used it to hang the fan from, it's working great.

I also set up the wiring on the fan assembly and put a removeable connector on it so I can yank the fans without having to cut wires every time. It's a Dean's Plug, they're commonly used in radio-controlled cars. There's virtually no resistance at the connection and the connector won't come apart on its own, yet it's easy to separate when the time comes to remove the fan for some reason.

6/11/03
I got going on the passenger's side header this week. I cut the pipe off the collector (took a long time - lots of material!), cut the turbo flange off the pipe (another long session at the band saw), got the collector and flange all cleaned up, and welded a couple 2.5" tight-radius 90-degree els to the collector.

I think it's going to work. The els are pretty close to the electric fan "housing", but I think it'll be okay. I need to add 9" straight pipe to the back of the top-most el to get the turbo back far enough, but I realized I didn't have any 2.5" schedule 40 pipe on-hand. Unfortunately neither does Home Depot! 2" is as large as they and the hardware stores carry, so it's another trip to Discount Steel today.

Since I was stuck on the passenger's side header, I got busy on the other one. I wanted to true the head flange so it'd seal okay when bolted to the head so I got out the belt sander. It's not long enough to hit the whole thing at once, but it's close. After working on it for some time and actually making some good progress, I decided to copy what Hooker did on my old headers which was put a weld bead around the ports on the head side of the flange to seal tight against the head. Here's a Hooker header flange:

And below is my header. I just laid a bead on the surface, sanded it flat, and checked it with a straight-edge. I had to reweld half of one bead because I sanded it too much, but now it's done and looking good if I do say so myself. I was pretty pessimistic about these headers sealing very well with just the flat flange, but this latest work has upped my confidence level significantly. I'll do the same thing to the other side next time I remove that header. That side is already a little warped so I definitely need to do this procedure.
 

I also did a little more work on the bonnet. I don't think I can go too much farther with it until I get the turbos mounted so I can route the inlet tubing around the them. Well, I suppose I could put a top on it....

I also took my power steering pump out, removed the pulley and mounting brackets, installed the new (and freshly powdercoated) Alan Grove mounts, and put the pulley back on. I haven't installed it because I need to find a new pressure hose and once it's installed I don't want to have to remove it.

6/12/03
Yesterday I got the 2.5" schedule 40 pipe I needed, so last night I resumed progress on the passenger's side header and started up on the driver's side header. The latest plan for turbo mounting locations looks like it'll work pretty well on both sides of the car. I had to re-angle the final straight pipe to lower the height of the turbo so the compressor outlet wouldn't hit the hood, but other than that, the layout is pretty straightfoward. The turbine outlet is in a nice spot too, I don't think routing the exhaust on that side will be any trouble at all. Now I just need to finish welding up all the pieces and put the turbo flange on the end of the last el so I can finally mount the turbo.

The driver's side is very similar, or it will be soon. There's not as much room to move the turbo way back like on the passenger's side, but the same approach should work to get it away from the intercooler outlet area. The intercooler outlet and turbine outlet pipes will be somewhat close to each other on that side which is counter-productive, but I should be able to make it work out pretty well with careful pipe routing. My next session in the garage "should" result in both turbos being mounted to the headers.

Frustration! If I could do this all over again, I'd route the headers totally differently. If the weld els weren't so darn expensive and time wasn't so short, I'd do them over again right now. I could easily eliminate that 180-degree bend area by putting the collectors facing up from the individual primary pipes between cylinders 1 and 3 (and between 2 and 4). But the situation being what it is, no can do. Next time I'll be sure to have all the parts on hand before I start welding stuff permanently!

6/13/03
A few more hours getting to know my welder resulted in 99% complete headers. I still need to surface the weld beads surrounding the ports on the head flange, but otherwise the fabrication is complete. The mounted picture shows them tacked together, the pictures of them on the floor were taken after final welding. A little slag cleanup and I hope to have them installed this weekend, possibly supporting a couple of turbos.

6/17/03
It was a busy weekend! I got the pipes run from the compressors to the intercooler, the exhaust off the passenger's side turbo is almost done, and the inlet tubing and filters are done for both sides. I did some more work on the bonnet and started working on the power supply wiring for the fans. The driver's-side exhaust is still the biggest problem, and running the inlet piping from the intercooler to the bonnet will be difficult thanks to the driver's side turbo being in the way.

6/19/03
In the past couple days I've got the passenger's side downtube welded up, set up a lot of wiring (power to a relay switched by the accessory spade in the fuse block) to a fuse-holding distribution block and out to another relay (with a temp switch and a manual override switch) and it'll then go from the relay to the electric fans. It's not all installed, but it's about ready to be (most of the wires are cut, crimped, soldered, etc.). I'm also about 90% done with the bonnet, I cut gaskets for the turbo inlet tube flanges, got some 3-3/8" pipe-to-intercooler hoses, some 2-5/8" intake-tube-to-turbo hose, and another 1-5/8" hose to connect the long pipe across the middle of the engine bay. I also ran the oil supply lines from the block to the turbos. Lots of work yet to do, but I'm making progress!

And the evidence...

           

6/27/03
It's been a week since my last update, but that's not because there's been nothing to update, but rather I've been so busy with the project I haven't had time to make any updates. Let's see, what have I done? I fabbed the intercooler-to-bonnet pipe with a 1" pipe stub for the blow-off valve, fabbed the driver's-side exhaust from the turbo to the old collector pipe, figured out the turbo oil returns, figured out the power steering pump mounting and hose routing, fabbed a cheesy air filter protection shield thing for the driver's-side filter which is behind and above the front left tire, I put a 3/8" hose connection in the driver's-side inlet tube for PCV valve hookup, put a 1/4" hose connection into the bonnet for fuel pump referencing, got a fuel filter and worked up the fuel line, figured out and put together the vacuum hose routing for the power brakes, blow-off valve, boost gauge, transmission, and distributor, I got the boost gauge installation just about complete, I powder-coated all the inlet tubing and bonnet in a cast iron color, I painted the headers, turbine housings, and downpipes with Eastwood high-temp black paint....that's about it for the more significant things. I still need to torque my head bolts, put everything back in the car (headers, turbos, piping, intercooler, radiator, fans, etc.), hook everything back together (turbos, piping, oil supply and drains, fuel line, radiator, etc.), install the exhaust gas temperature gauge, cut and route new plug wires...there's probably more, but I can't think of anything. Oh, I need to powdercoat my intercooler/radiator cover, too. I'm really, REALLY hoping to fire it up on Sunday!

6/30/03
It happened. I got it started! No, there's no boost yet, I'm still having trouble with the lower radiator hose so I started it without a cooling system (can't boil over if there's no coolant, right? ;-)). Once there was gas in the carb it fired right up and idled on its own, but not too smoothly. I checked the vacuum/boost gauge and saw only about 4" of vacuum and remembered I had an open vacuum connection behind the carb for the blowoff valve. I plugged that and the idle smoothed out and the vacuum reading went up to around 18". There was a little ticking and clattering at first, but after a minute and a couple revs it went away. Not sure if it was lack of oil at first or a rocker being too loose or just the forged pistons being cold. Either way, I'm not worried.

It's noticeably quieter than before, both at the tailpipes and under the hood. The thick headers keep it quiet up front, while the exhaust being forced through the turbos makes it quieter at the back end. I'm not sure how happy I am about that, but there's not much I can do. I'll pull the cutout caps off and see how loud it gets unmuffled just for fun.

There's only one leak I can find, and that's in the exhaust pipe under the car, well past the turbo. I didn't even notice the leak from noise or smell, just because I saw some water on the floor and traced it to the pipe. The pipe has low point there so any condensation not burned off will collect there and apparently will drip out of some pinhole leak. I'll leave it for now.

Tonight I expect to get the lower hose to work, bend up a new fuel line to get around the lower hose, drop in the fans, hook up the MSD box, and fire it up again and actually drive it this time!

7/21/03
Wow, has it already been three weeks since the last update? Sorry about that, really bad timing for a lack of updates, right when I was getting close.

Well, I actually drove the twin-turbo Nova on Tuesday, July 1. I didn't get into the throttle too much because I still had N/A jetting (68/73) in the Holley. That really was the only thing holding me back, but I just couldn't take a chance with the new engine and all that. I could hear the turbo spooling as I did some mild acceleration, but the boost gauge stayed on the vacuum side. The engine seemed a little more sluggish than before, but I suppose the headers and turbos aren't nearly as free-flowing as the old Hooker headers were, and I've added quite a bit of weight to the front of the car, too. That in itself is a slight problem, as my driver's side downpipe hits the curb if I'm not careful when going into and out of my driveway. I thought I'd have decent clearance and when I checked it I did, but that was with the radiator, coolant, intercooler, and other things not installed. Adding that stuff dropped the front end down and now I only have 2.75" of ground clearance. Ouch.

So it runs fairly well, but I had a pretty big oil leak, a small coolant leak, the dash lights were really dim after only about a 20-minute drive, and it seemed to run hot even without the hood installed. I was really frustrated since I only had a week before I was to take it on a 600-mile trip and was ready to give up, but after talking to some friends they convinced me the problems were probably minor and to give it a shot. I realized my cooling "problem" was only that my electric fans turned on at about 205 degrees rather than 170 as the switch advertised. I've got a manual override switch for them, so no biggie. I fixed the coolant leak (tightened a hose clamp), fixed the oil leak (a pipe fitting didn't sit down into the block far enough), and bought a new CS130 (105-amp) alternator and installed that. Okay, problems aside, time to rejet and test it under boost.

I put in the recommended 85/95 jets and took it out on July 3. It ran sluggish but okay for about five minutes, but then it had trouble idling and kept dying in low-speed situations (turning around, etc.). It was rather difficult to restart, too. If the power under boost had put a big smile on my face it would have been worth it, but there was no smile. I'd get on it, build some rpm, floor it, and slowly as the engine would rev I'd hear the turbos cranking but only manage 3-4 psi boost. Okay, something's not letting me build boost, but I'd think 3-4 psi would have been enough to make a decent power increase, but I just didn't really feel it. It may have been stronger once things got rolling, but not a ton. I don't have enough miles on my current combo to make a really good comparison, but it definitely wasn't eye-opening power.

Well, to add insult to injury, my right-side air filter fell off and I drove over it. CRAP! A $40 K&N down the drain. Then the car died going into the driveway....it just wasn't a good run. I think a lot of it was due to the uber-rich carb jetting. Sure, maybe it's safe for operating under boost, but it sucked for all other conditions! My plugs were blacker than black, too. I've since been told to try something in the neighborhood of 76/91 jetting. I'll give it a shot.

I went out of town for a couple days, did some thinking, and decided that with a road trip coming up in four days, I better just yank all the turbo stuff and go back to my naturally-aspirated setup from May, 2003. I did that in about three hours on Sunday, rejetted back to 68/73, and drove it to work on Monday the 7th. Everything seemed fine, except with my latest rear gear change my speedometer was reading 20% low. I decided to try one of the other speedometer driven gears I had lying around that night, but I proceeded to lose the driven gear INSIDE THE TRANNY. Nice job, idiot. I asked around and nobody thought it'd hurt anything, so I left it. I installed a new gear with fewer teeth and buttoned things back up.

Next day I drove it to work again. Unfortunately the speedometer didn't work at all. And on the way home the engine died once for no apparent reason, seemed to run hot, the converter was running hotter than it should have been considering the weather and traffic conditions, and now a problem with the brakes popped up. I get about 4" of pedal travel where nothing happens, then I get a hard pedal after that. Weird. I also found out after the car sat in the garage for two hours after work that day that I had a big tranny leak! 6" puddle in two hours. Not the end of the world, but not something I want to fight on a road trip which was to happen the very next day.

So, much to my chagrin, I went to our annual Nova Gathering in a friggin' Dodge Caravan. Managed to cut a .503 light with it, though. :-)

7/22/03
And here I am, been home for a week, haven't even touched the car. I'm hoping next month I'll get some time to work on the brakes, replace the speedometer cable, and get the thing running again, even if it's without the turbos.

11/10/03
Well, one month has turned into four and nothing has happened. If you were following the build-up, I wish to offer my apologies for dropping the ball. After the Nova Gathering I was just so down from not having it done and burned out from working on it so much in April, May, and June, that I just wanted a break. I needed a lot of time to catch up on other projects around the house and to spend time with my family too. Well, I guess I got used to not spending all my time in the garage and was having fun with my other hobby (radio-controlled cars and trucks - go to < href="http://www.slapmafro.com">slapmafro.com for some videos of the fun my friends and I have had with those) so I never got back to fixing my Nova. Besides, unknown brake problems aren't the least bit fun, nor is replacing a speedometer cable. So I let it sit...and sit...and sit....

2004

3/15/04
...and now four months has turned into eight. Such is life, I guess. I DO intend to get back to my Nova shortly, believe it or not. I've got a few things to finish up first, but after that I'm looking forward to replacing my master cylinder and speedo cable, then I'll get out there and put some miles under the ol' Nova without the turbos. If everything checks out (brakes, tranny, cooling system, etc.), I'll pull it back off the road and attempt to become turbo-fied once again.

5/17/04
...and eight months becomes ten....but my Nova is back on the road! I fixed the brakes and speedo cable/tranny leak and have put about 50 miles on it so far. Still turbo-free, but at least it's on the road. The plan is to drive it for another three weeks or so, making sure everything is working properly, and then bolt the turbos back on and see what happens.

5/19/04
So far so good! The car is behaving quite normally now. The speedometer operates smoothly (something that's never happened in the 16 years I've owned it), the brakes are good, and the cooling system seems up to the task. That's yet to be proven, but as long as I remember to run the fans full-time or turn them on when approaching a stop-and-go situation, I think it'll be fine. I was driving it in 75-degree temps a couple days ago and the engine temp was at about 170 degrees. I approached some stop-and-go conditions so I flipped on the fans as a precaution and a couple minutes later it was below my termostat opening temperature! Nice. As much as I hate hot weather, I'm looking forward to it so I can really give my cooling system a workout.

11/12/04
Well it WAS good. :-( I drove my Nova regularly from mid-May through mid-July and everything was fine. But after replacing my front brake pads in late July my car started vibrating terribly at highway speeds. It took me a while to get the spare time to try to determine the problem, but I figured it must have something to do with the brakes since the vibration started after I replaced the pads. I had the rotors turned in early October, threw it back together, and....more vibrations. They were worse when I was on the brakes than off, so I was thinking warped rotors. Fine. I bought a pair of rotors and new top-quality pads. Slapped it all on, and....no change. ARGGGHHH! So that's where I am right now. Not driving it because of a lousy vibration at highway speeds that began with a simple brake pad replacement. I have no idea what's causing it and now winter is coming. Lovely.

Take a look at my 2005-2015 update for more on the sad state of my Nova's midlife crisis.

Here are the (non-turbo) specs for my car in 2004:

My Engine:

The Rest of the Driveline:

Chassis and Suspension:

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© 2015 Bruce Johnson and Craig Watson