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1977 Trans Am Undercarriage
It was the summer of 2008 and I was wanting to once again dive into my 1977 Trans Am with another project. This project would have to improve the looks and value of the car, while at the same time (in a weird sense of the imagination) be fun and labor intensive. Three other important criteria would also have to be met as noted below:
1. Wouldn't cost too much, other than my time.
2. Wouldn't take too long to complete, 1 year max. (I mainly worked on the TA on weekends)
3. Would be well worth the effort once finished.
As I found out, the only thing that was true about the above statements was number three!!
"THAT" project turned out to be a complete dismantling, cleaning, documenting, extreme detailing and reassembly of my 1977 Trans AM. The undercarriage was full of that thick Kendall rubberized undercoating that dealers installed on cars in the 1980's and 1990's. I know this for a fact because while I was working at a local GM dealer then, I sprayed that mess on myself! Straight from the 20 lbs barrel it came from. It looked great when it was first put on. Oh yeah, "Quiets the ride, protects against rust, etc." all kinds of slogans for car dealers to add to the new car (or used car) price ticket. I will have to admit that it did probably protect my Trans Am's undercarriage and subframe from rust and corrosion. For that I am grateful. I will say though that I will never, ever, EVER spray that mess or ANY undercoating on anything I drive anymore. If for nothing else, it makes for a heck of a nasty experience when working underneath the car. Whether pulling the transmission, changing a starter, changing u-joints, shocks, etc., if you have sprayed the undercarriage with that stuff, expect to get jet black filthy greasy!
With that said, I decided to undertake the project of completely dismantling my 1977 Trans Am from its subframe and axle. The only thing left when I was scraping that mess off was just the body sitting on jack stands. One reason I wanted to do this (as I stated earlier) was cost. I didn't have a ton of extra money I could invest in my Trans Am at that moment so I figured other than spending money on the chemicals and scrapers to remove the undercoating, plus using my own time and labor, it wouldn't be too awful expensive. Well, mistake number one! (insert big laugh here). The process used to remove the undercoating was (In This Order):
2. Spray-on "Kleen Strip" (copper can) or "Aircraft" paint remover.
3. Plastic Scrapers (so not to hurt the metal).
4. Steel Wool. (not too coarse)
5. Brakleen. (3m or CRC bought by the "many" cases!)
6. Kerosene. (at times as it didn't evaporate as easily as the Brakleen)
7. Did I mention Brakleen and Steel Wool!
8. Red shop rags, or ANY shop rags.
9. Scott Blue Shop Towels. (many, many boxes)
I forgot to mention that I was doing this lying on my back on a creeper. I didn't have the luxury of a "rotisserie" or a "floor lift" to raise the vehicle where I could stand up and do this. On an average Saturday morning and afternoon and sometimes evening, I would concentrate on about a 3 foot by 3 foot area and spend an entire day on that one area! Yes, it IS that tough sometimes to get that mess off and do it right without destroying the original finish underneath. I debated just "clearing" the underside once I had it all removed but as with any project like this, it did remove the original finish in areas. I decided to go back with a color that was as close as I could get to the original.
In addition to the undercarriage, axle and subframe, I also went through the whole front suspension and documented every color of every part the best I could while dismantling, noting any factory assembly markings. I was extremely careful not to "sand", "grind" or "wire brush" parts initially when cleaning all the grease off. Brakleen is very useful in this aspect because it cleans very well, without stripping away factory details. That is, as long as you are careful with it. Spray it on and use an air nozzle to blow the parts clean. If you scrub the parts with the Brakleen still on them, very possibly it WILL remove the markings.
Another thing to note is that while I was dismantling the whole Trans Am's undercarriage, initially I was just planning to put new gaskets on the engine. Once I pulled the oil pan, I saw a scuffed cylinder wall which led to a very tight connecting rod on the piston, which in turn led to (you guessed it), a complete engine rebuild! Well, so much for the project that wasn't going to cost much money to do! Added to that, now taking a lot longer than my initial expectation of a year to complete.
This has been a huge (and that being an understatement) project for me. That is why the website has seen very few updates between 2009 and now. I have been very focused on this project while having to maintain my regular day job and the many extra community activities I am involved with. February of this year, 2013, I was finally able to crank my 1977 Trans Am up again and drive it around town and now to cruise-ins and an occasional show to enjoy what I have worked so hard for these last 5 years. I really and truly forgot how fun this car was to drive! While "everything' is still not finished, it is close enough for me to enjoy driving her again. I still have to reinstall the air conditioning compressor and accumulator, while also doing some finishing touches on the detail aspects. Please enjoy the photos on the pages to come as I will be uploading many over the next coming months. I hope what I have documented on my 1977 Trans Am will help some others who are just as "crazy or obsessive" (insert another laugh here) as I have been (and continue to be). It has been and continues to be a very nice, educational, learning experience on how these Trans Am's were put together back in 1977.
Enjoy the pics!
NOTE: CLICK on the photo to see a larger image.
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