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SkinnyG SuperDork
5/19/14 10:36 p.m.

This was supposed to stay under wraps until the $2500 challenge, but I doubt I can wait that long.

Also, I like Tuna55's idea of getting a thread up and running - keeps you motivated to do ~something~ on the beast to get it done.

Anyway, out of hiding - here goes....

Looks like I started on this project around 2009. I had been planning this specific project for 15 years.

A student bought this non-running car in hopes of making a cheap daily driver (I teach high school Auto Mechanics). The students wouldn't listen, so it never did run. They didn't want to haul it away at the end of the semester, so since it had papers, I bought it.

It's a 1987 Pontiac Firefly Turbo - a Chevy Sprint to the 'Muricans below us who never got the Pontiac version. The turbo models have a bit of a cult following - find someone who has one, and they probably have two or three more in their back yard. I did a leak down on the engine, then stripped the car and sold off the useless bits for twice what I paid for the car.


Someone's been mucking about in there...


Minimal leakage on a cold engine


The French Wrench will be helping a lot more, real soon...


mndsm MegaDork
5/19/14 10:54 p.m.

So.... is the v8 in question of the same family? IE- do I envision an LS mani correctly?

Trans_Maro UltraDork
5/19/14 11:53 p.m.

Put a Pontiac 400 in there..

Zomby Woof
Zomby Woof PowerDork
5/20/14 7:33 a.m.

If that's as clean as it looks in the pics, it's a shame to butcher it.

pinchvalve MegaDork
5/20/14 7:59 a.m.

Should provide some inspiration. (or an engine choice option)

SkinnyG SuperDork
5/20/14 8:05 p.m.

What engine? The engine story comes later.

Body Shape? It wasn't cherry up close. Especially not inside. Was it saveable? Yes.

The Build Continues...

My plans were to build a complete, running, rolling chassis that I could just bolt the shell of a body on. That way, if I ever got pulled over and ordered for inspection, I could just buy another body, cut out the floor, and drop it on. "Oh, no, officer, this is a different vehicle: different colour, different VIN. Different vehicle."

I had just bought myself a TIG, and after a bit of practice I figured I would TIG the frame all together. The frame at this point is all 2x3x0.120". Yes, it could be lighter, but first and foremost, this is to be a street-driven toy. Durable and safe is more important.

We're talking literally only a few hours of TIG experience here.

I look at these welds now and cringe

Junkyard_Dog SuperDork
5/20/14 9:03 p.m.

In reply to pinchvalve:

You can't take the sky from me.

SkinnyG SuperDork
5/21/14 11:09 p.m.

And then cage work began. First, bracing the shell, and then cutting out the floor.

Mr. Plasma Cutter is my friend today.

I want to run our local hill climb, as well as our local drag strip and local autocross events. Building a car that can "do it all" is a challenge.

I drew up how I wanted the door bars and main hoop bent, and a friend bent it all up for me.

The main structure is 1-3/4" with 1-1/2" in places where I could get away with it. I did not have a 1-5/8" die, or I would likely have gone that way. Whatever. I keep telling myself it's stronger/safer. Note: This is my very first cage.

Trying to design a cage for both drag racing and solo sprints is a bit of a challenge. The two rule sets don't work together very well.

My TIG skills are improving... Slowly.

It took a bit of playing around to get a fit I liked.

I thought bolting the original seat belts back in would be a good idea. Heck, why not anchor the roll cage at that point too?

Dusterbd13 Dork
5/22/14 1:59 p.m.

I like where this is going.

crazycanadian Reader
5/22/14 2:30 p.m.

That looks like fun.. Have any plans on bringing it down here to the lower mainland for any events??

SkinnyG SuperDork
5/22/14 7:16 p.m.

GVRD Events: I probably will, once I sort out the gremlins and can trust it for the drive down. Once arrested, though, I'll have to walk back.

E/Mod, I guess, unless there is somewhere else I can go with a cut firewall and an engine location/orientation change? Not worried - I am fully prepared for this car to be completely uncompetitive in every venue.

Why? I'm just building it for the jaw-dropping horror of it all.

The story continues...

This is how the engine bay started looking (firewall will be cut out):


I forgot to show the diagonal in the roof:



You will notice I changed the rear down tubes - connecting at the same node as the door/roof bars:


One of the few gratuitous shots of myself, getting ready for final welding:



Somewhere around this time I bought a 1988 Pontiac Firebird out of the local ads, with a blown 700R4, for $200.

Did I mention I bought the Firefly for $200?

I had previously sold the Firefly drivetrain for $400. So far, I'm into this for the cost of tubing.

The Firebird's TBI 305 ran beautifully, and came with an MSD box (I ended up using the box on the high-compression big cam Crusty Chevy). This is how the engine sat in the car at this point:


The engine is narrow enough to fit between the shock towers, short enough to fit under the hood, and the whole thing will still fit under the dashboard. It's like it was meant to be! How can anyone possibly say no to this? Not me, I tell you! Sadly this Pontiac/Pontiac swap wouldn't be SM legal. S&M maybe....


There actually is room for your feet in there.


I sold the blown 700R4 as a core for $50 since I already had a TH350 sitting around.

You can see the Firebird front suspension in the pics above, as I was trying to find a way to use as much from the Firebird as I possibly could to keep costs down. I mean, when being pulled over for a VI in this thing is almost a certainty, you want to be walking away from as little a financial investment as possible. Plus, a "condemned" vehicle has no liability - getting VI'd might even be a money maker!

How could I possibly go wrong?!

Junkyard_Dog SuperDork
5/22/14 7:42 p.m.


Catatafish Reader
5/22/14 7:45 p.m.

Vehicle inspection. Aka often a death sentence for modified cars in bc.

SkinnyG SuperDork
5/24/14 11:02 p.m.

The '88 Firebird wheels actually suit the car really well.


I sent the axles off to Moser Engineering to have them shortened and re-splined 4-1/2" each, whilst I narrowed the Firebird axle myself.

I could not find anybody locally who could re-spline, but I knew Moser could. The cost in shipping was more than the cost of the machining. They did a perfect job, and the whole thing went together great.


At this point, the back axle was being located with fabricated lower trailing arms, a fabricated panhard rod, and the shortened torque arms from the Firefly.

This actually was a problem, because there is not enough room for two seats (because of the width), and marginal room for a fuel tank and mufflers (in the back). This will be changed shortly - I intend to do some triangulated upper trailing arms soon.

solfly Reader
5/25/14 12:14 p.m.

Following this for sure.

SkinnyG SuperDork
5/25/14 10:40 p.m.

The Firebird's 700R4 was blown, so I replaced it with a TH350 that I had. This meant I need some method to attach the Firebird's torque-arm, since there was no bracket on the TH350. In the interest of "what the hell was I thinking?", I made the front mount adjustable.



I did not have a tubing bender when I made the crossmember. I'm not sure this will stay this way - I can do better.

gamby UltimaDork
5/25/14 11:04 p.m.
Catatafish wrote: Vehicle inspection. Aka often a death sentence for modified cars in bc.

That's a shame. Sucks for you guys.

Trans_Maro PowerDork
5/26/14 12:18 a.m.
Catatafish wrote: Vehicle inspection. Aka often a death sentence for poorly modified cars in bc.


We've had very little trouble getting modified and even u-built vehicles through a V.I. in this province.

The only things they can nail you for is stuff which is against the motor vehicle act. Turn signals, horns, brakes, headlights, etc. A safe car will pass without trouble.

SkinnyG Dork
5/26/14 9:46 a.m.

I believe Catatafish and I are from the same area in BC.

It is ~not~ so easy to get a vehicle through out here - unless I just haven't found the right shops.

In trying to get the Lethal Locost inspected: one shop flat out refused; one shop would only inspect it if it was a kit; the first shop I took it to called up a dude from the Ministry who came to see it, and said he wanted it engineered and tested for front, rear, and side impact protection. Eventually I found a shop that was willing.

Having said all that, I have seen Locosts all over the province requiring bumpers and not requiring bumpers, requiring windshields and not requiring windshields, even requiring English and French "Exit/Sortie" signs on the sides so you know how to exit the vehicle.

Inspections: "it really depends," and out here, you oughta be wearing some too.

A good friend of mine runs a local shop where they do inspections. He's a hot rodder and a drag racer. When I share the V8 Firefly with him, he thinks its a great project - "Just don't bring it here for an inspection" he says.

Nevertheless: I will drive it until I get pulled over, try to get it inspected, and if it doesn't pass, sell it as a "race car." I am ok with that. :)

I'm not fretting the inevitable inspection.

Trans_Maro UltraDork
5/26/14 10:02 a.m.

Wow, that sucks for you guys.

Some inspections shops seem to suffer from recto-cranial inversion. There is an inspection checklist, as long as it meets everything on the checklist, it should pass.

ICBC even had a ruling a couple years ago that a vehicle shall be titled as what it's silhouette most closely represents. This means a fiberglass '32 Ford with all new components will be titled and inspected as a 1932 Ford, not a 2014 Ford.

Those inspectors need a really hefty slap.


SkinnyG Dork
5/26/14 6:44 p.m.

Really? When I contacted ICBC directly (last year), if a certain (unspecified) percentage of the car's body was fiberglass, the car would be registered as a 2014 UBILT, and ineligible to be "REPLICAR" status (which would have allowed period correct lighting).

ICBC was not able to tell me what the magic number was, or even how this would be calculated. "Just send in your paperwork, and we will figure it out" they said. Kinda hard to plan the build around that.

Then again, it's all Gov't run, so I guess I should stop looking for logic.

SkinnyG SuperDork
5/26/14 7:12 p.m.

I mentioned I intended to use as much of the Firebird as I could in this project. This would keep costs down.

One significant problem was that the Steering Axis Inclination and Caster built into the struts became a packaging problem now that the front suspension had to be 9" narrower. I gave up and bought S10 spindles, S10 upper control arms, and a Chevette Rack, from Pick-N-Pull.

Everything is interchangeable between the S10 and Camaro/Firebird.


A bit of battery rust.

I could not use the lower arm from the Firebird due to packaging.

Being a thinking man, to make it easier to use the S10 upper arm, I fabricated a lower arm the same length as the Firebird arm (same as S10), and (to ease packaging) I fabricated some Strut Rods using the original rubber bushings from The Hideous Hardbody (saved from when I did poly bushings).

But then I couldn't use the upper arm anyway, due to packaging. So I fabricated a new upper arm, the same length as the S10 upper arm, thus keeping the geometry in an easy-to-find ballpark.


But to reduce bump steer, that would have resulted in shortening the Chevette steering rack about a foot - meaning I could only use ONE clamp to hold the rack down, and no way to get the steering shaft to meet up with the rack.

Whose stupid idea was this anyway?


Hmmm.... Suspension arm travel might be limited.... Also had to slice the crossmember down to make room for the oil pan.


Not a lot of room for a steering shaft here. This might be poorly planned out.

This is the part where I reveal how much of a two-bit hack I am.

mndsm MegaDork
5/26/14 7:17 p.m.

Hehehe you want to know the REALLY scary thing? I could bring that into MN and get plates on it as it sits under the 25 year exemption, and because MN in a no inspection state... anything goes. Things one thinks about....

Trans_Maro UltraDork
5/26/14 7:24 p.m.

In reply to SkinnyG:

Typical ICBC..

I always ask for what they've told me over the phone to be put in writing and they never manage to do it. If someone were to be held accountable, rules might actually be applied evenly.

SkinnyG SuperDork
5/27/14 11:13 p.m.

When I realized how much I had to shorten the rack, I came to the realization that continuing down ~this~ path was hopeless. I slept on it, and then came back and hacked the whole thing out.


I re-designed the front suspension around an un-molested Chevette rack. The resulting arms were pretty short. It will work. New brackets for the new (yet again) lower control arms:


Figuring out control arm tube angles:


New rack placement, with a wee cut in the new crossmember:


And now we have lower control arms and a rack that makes me happy. Spring packaging is going to be a problem.


How it sat at this point:


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