Category Archives: Cars

Iconic 1989 BMW M3


The real deal – an M3!

The latest vehicle to arrive at my cousin Jim’s shop is this iconic 1989 BMW M3.  For a 20+ year-old vehicle this one is in remarkable shape traveling (according to the odometer) slightly over 80,000 miles.  However, rust has no mercy and is relentless in attacking all sorts of vehicles regardless of their desirability.

The owner of the M3 brought the car to Jim in the hopes of having several rust spots repaired on the roof, in the area ahead of the opening for the sunroof.  In addition, the battery box – located in the trunk of the vehicle – has some rust issues also.


The iconic 1989 BMW M3 with its distinctive fender flares

So this is what the roof of he car looks like.


Rust damage ahead of the sunroof opening

By now you are wondering how would the roof rust in such unusual spot and with such weird pattern.  Turns out, if you zoom in on the picture close enough one can see the slight evidence from where one of those popular 80’s and 90’s sunroof wind deflectors touched the car’s roof.  Looking at the way pattern of rust holes, there must have been some sort of flaw in the way the wind deflector was installed and this caused the paint to wear down to bare metal.  Once that happened, moisture seeped in and the rest is history.  In addition, the area where the rust resides in is close to the sunroof drains.  This must have been packed up with debris at some point in time, and this also contributed to the vast amounts of rust.

Unfortunately, damage is not confined just to the top.

Rust formed on the inside seam of the sunroof as well as on the bottom of the sunroof tray, all located towards the front of the car.  This is going to be a difficult repair, because of the intricate shape and patterns that will need to be made to make the new repair patch panels.

Next, we have the battery box, and this one is indeed interesting!  Here are a few pictures…

As you can see from the pictures above, there is a fair bit of damage.  To make things worse, the owner had cut a piece of plywood and had glued it to the rusty floor. This only trapped moisture even more making things that much worse.  So, how did so much rust accumulate on the floor of the battery box?

These two pictures are from the driver’s side area behind the rear wheel.  This is basically the same place where the battery box is on the passenger’s side.  As you can see, there is a trim piece still in place and it has a rubber hose attached to it.  That is the drain for the sunroof channel.  All sunroofs have at least one.  As advanced as the engineers were that created this “ultimate driving machine”, the completely missed creating a backup plan.  Yes, a backup plan.

If you look very close at the photo on the right (see above), you will see there is water in the floor of that cavity!  So, even with the drainage hose properly attached, there is a place for water to accumulate and what is deplorable:  there is no drainage hole for the water to escape out of.  Very poor design indeed.

And finally, a couple of pictures of the 4 cylinder engine everyone gets a hard-on about…


Holley EFI Terminator Kit

I’m not very keen on endorsing products but, I will make an exception for the Holley EFI Terminator kit.  At my cousin Jim’s shop is Wayne’s 1956 Chevrolet 210, restored sometime in the 1980’s with a nice paint job, interior and a crate engine.  Wayne wanted something more reliable and fuel-efficient, so the old carburetor got ditched and work started to help bring this American icon back to life with modern EFI.  The centerpiece of all the new parts and today’s topic is the Holley Terminator EFI kit.


Wayne’s 1956 Chevrolet 210

A new, fuel-injection compatible fuel tank with high pressure fuel pump, replaced the original tank.  The fuel pump kit included a special cylindrical shape sock made of a material that resembles a loofah sponge; this prevents sloshing and erratic fuel gauge readings.  Pretty cool stuff.  This was then plumed forward to the engine compartment with new stainless tubing.  Nice and tidy.

The Holley Terminator EFI kit comes packaged in a large box including all the bits needed to replace an aging carburetor.  This includes a device that resembles a 4 barrel carburetor but with all the necessary sensors needed by the EFI controller.


EFI Throttle body – note the 2 injectors and Throttle Position Sensor (TPS)

So essentially this is a Throttle Body Injection (TBI) kit.  You can see in this picture the four butterflies, the two fuel rails and two of the four injectors.  These injectors are special in that they spread a very fine mist below the butterflies that bust up fuel into a very fine fog.  There is a throttle position sensor (TPS), manifold absolute pressure sensor (MAP) and an idle air controller (IAC).  This whole affair sits on top of the intake manifold with no changes.


Holley Terminator EFI Controller (from the Holley website)

In the box is also a high quality wiring harness with first-class connectors and very clearly labeled wiring harness; wide band oxygen sensor and engine coolant temperature (ECT) sensor.  Several plastic bags are also included with just about any bolt and transmission linkage adapter one could ever need.  Finally the centerpiece of the kit:  the Terminator EFI controller and hand-held interface.  This is the same controller used by NASCRAP these days except that instead of four injectors, they use eight.  This controller can also be configured to run 4, 6, 8 or 10 injectors so this makes an excellent choice for other projects.  :mrgreen:


GM HEI distributor

The Terminator controller provides the ability to also control timing provided the a suitable distributor exists.  In this case, Jim installed a GM HEI distributor with new custom-cut spark plug wires.

Configuring the EFI Terminator and First Start-up


Holley EFI Terminator hand-held interface

This is where the Terminator kit really shines.  To kit comes with a joystick driven interface used to navigate a simple menu driven configuration.  The interface gets connected to a special port in the harness and enables the user to configure the controller as well as for monitoring real-time the sensors.  Prior to startup, the “Wizard” option enables input of engine-size, cam-profile and distributor type.


Throttle linkage and MAP sensor

Next, the Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) requires calibration.  Using another configuration menu option in the handheld interface, the throttle linkage gets cycled twice.  This action tells the controller the range of motion of the TPS.  The goal is to have the range of motion between 0% and 100% and this is easy to read in one of the “MONITOR” screens on the hand-held interface.

Once initial controller configuration is complete, it is time to start the engine.  Part of the built-in logic of the controller is the ability to “prime” the intake manifold by cycling the injectors depending on readings from all sensors.  This prevents flooding.

In our case, it took a few tries but eventually it fired off and ran very strong.  After a few minutes at idle the controller went to closed-loop.  Next on the configuration process we had to set timing.  This required revving the engine to approx 2000 RPM’s and shining a timing light.  The HEI distributor needed a minor adjustment enabling the RPM’s shown on the hand-held interface to match the reading on the crank.  At this point, the distributor could be locked in place.

Concluding initial setup required setting the idle speed.  This step calls for selecting the “MONITOR” option and reading the idle air controller (IAC) value at idle.  With a few tweaks of the butterfly adjustment screw we set the IAC value in accordance to the instructions.

Now What?

The next step requires taking the car out on the street.  We are not ready for that just yet because the interior must be put back, instruments installed and so forth.

Overall the Holley EFI Terminator kit is impressive.  Installation is very straightforward and the hand-held interface foolproof.  Yes, it is very “basic” (more on that in a minute) but it gets you going with very little confusion. One thing I did not like is the flimsy and diminutive plug used to connect the hand-held interface to the main harness.  It is very delicate – perhaps a more robust connector could have been used.

The documentation provided in this kit is excellent.  Somebody took their time writing this and Holley structured the start-up process in a very well-organized and detailed way.  There are plenty of pictures and diagrams especially of the menu-driven interface configs.  This instruction manual deserves careful reading because there is a lot of information.

Another very big plus about this system is the ability to control electric fans.  The controller is capable of running one or two electric fans.  The hand-held controller also allows setting the “ON” and “OFF” temperatures for fan operation.  In this installation because of space limitations there was room for only one fan.  The preset temperatures were left alone:  fans turn ON at 195 degrees and they go OFF at 180.

As if this were not enough, the controller can also be connected to a laptop!  The software is available for download from the Holley website and requires a USB cable.  In this case the cable gets connected directly to a port on the controller.  According to what I have read, this is how more complex and detailed configurations get selected.

I’ll have more details on how the rest of the configuration goes once the car is ready for the road.


1935 Bugatti Type 57S Compétition Coupé Aerolithe

What a treat today has been!  Drove to the High Museum of Art Atlanta to see the Dream Cars collection exhibition, which will continue until September 7, 2014.  If you get a chance to make the drive, I highly recommend it.  A total of seventeen concept cars are on display each magnificent except for two turds.  Both German – one, a BMW and the second a Porsche.  Oh well, can’t have it all I suppose.

So I’ll start by listing what I thought was the most impressive in the collection:  a 1935 Type 57S Compétition Coupé Aerolithe.  The finish of this car is a shade of very light green metallic that exhibits properties akin to a chameleon:  one moment it looked light green, and the next it became almost silver.  And yes, this is the Bugatti with the exposed backbone assembled with hundreds of rivets.  Feast your eyes…


The front of the car displays an immense amount of exceptionally perfect chrome.  The grill has what appears to be thermostatically controlled vertical blade arrangement allowing the correct amount of cool air to keep the engine from overheating.  The headlights were particularly impressive:  everything was crystal-clear except for the bulbs: they were yellow.  The side vents on the hood were also flawless and the latches holding the sides were magnificent.

IMG_2312Moving right along, notice the doors.  What a door!  Check out how high the door sills are and the teardrop design of the side glass window.  The occupant’s shoulder would be even with the lower edge of the window – how awesome is that?  Finally as if it were not obvious enough, those are suicide doors held in place by two delicately made door hinges.  To make something look this simple and elegant takes an obscene amount of knowledge, craftsmanship and time.

IMG_2319Here is a closeup of the rear wheel cover.  The cover has five fasteners that when turned in the correct direction allow the cover to be removed.  Pay close attention to the lower right corner where the wheel cover meets the rear curve of the fender.  The amount of detail is immense.  The cover has a compound curve – it boggles the mind how this the master craftsman in charge hand-formed this from a sheet of metal using his hands, an English Wheel, perhaps a planishing hammer…  And it goes without saying, but look at all those rivets holding the fender to the rest of the body.

IMG_2320The tail of this Bugatti is once again an amazing work of art.  Here we see the exposed backbone with all those alternating rivets.  The spare wheel must be under that large round cover.  Notice how perfect the sweeping seam on the fender meets the backbone in the middle.  Finally, below the roll-pan are four very tastefully placed indicators.  They are just neatly tucked away as to not distract the eye from the flowing curve of the back of this work of art.  Amazing don’t you think?

IMG_2323Here you see the four lights I mentioned before, but wait…  Look at that simple but elegant chromed release handle for the boot cover.  It appears to be designed to be lifted and then pulled back where it would rest on a detent.  Then the entire back cover would open.

IMG_2325This picture shows the exposed backbone actually goes under the car for a certain distance.  I was unable to get a closer look but I think there are even more surprises under all the shiny bodywork. If you look close enough towards the left, you see that small tapered point on the wheel cover that shows just how high the level of detail exists on this coachwork.

IMG_2326Here are the back windows.  Unfortunately the light was not good enough to show the interior, but from this vantage point I could actually see all the instrumentation as well as the dash and steering wheel.

IMG_2322I realize this is not exactly the best of photos, but look at how the door extends into the roof area of the car.  I suppose this would have aided the occupant when entering/exiting the inside of the car.  Nothing seems left to chance here.  Exceptional, don’t you think?


IMG_2302I took the two pictures above, to highlight something particular about this car.  The entire body is a flow of curves.  The long swooping fenders, the compound curve of the rear wheel cover, the roof, the curves on the rear deck…  Except for one thing…  Look at the extreme sharp edge on the engine cover as it meets the firewall.  Then think when this was all formed:  the mid 1930’s.  This is not a car – this is art.

Finally, I’ll just close with a few more pictures of this exceptional rolling masterpiece.

IMG_2294IMG_2298IMG_2295Stay tuned…  I took many pictures of the rest of the cars in the collection.  I’ll try to write about them in the next few posts


The Chevrolet Cameo Pickup

Back in the mid 1950’s, the Chevrolet Cameo pickup was the first of the high-end luxury trucks with real pizzazz.  Thanks to the knowledge General Motors obtained from the plastic-fantastic Corvette, the Cameo’s outer bed panels were made of lightweight fiberglass.  At the time the Cameo came equipped with a high-end interior, the best of V8 power, automatic transmission and two-tone paint.  In the 1950’s this made the Cameo a very avant-garde vehicle, and thus not many were built.  Even more obscure is the GMC version – the Suburban Carrier.

Today, the Cameo is very rare.  Today, I had the privilege to work on one (again!) – oh lucky me!!  :mrgreen:

In a none-too-distant-future this Cameo will be a stablemate to my friend Barry’s Bel Air (click here to see it).  What makes this Bel Air so damn special is that it has been in Barry’s family since new.  Just imagine still owning the car you grew up since you were a kid!!

This Chevrolet Cameo has been at my cousin Jim’s shop numerous times on its way to being brought back to life.  Jim has modified the frame, installed the new LS 5.3 liter engine (oh hell yeah!!) and done a huge amount of other fabrication work.  I have written about it before; you can read more about it by clicking here and here.

Today we did some bodywork on the fiberglass outer bed panels.


Body filler applied to the “low spots”.

To get the bed panels nice and straight, my cousin Jim previously sprayed them with sanding primer (the gray stuff) and today we worked some body-filler in order to ensure a very straight finish.  Body filler is applied to the “low spots” on the panels.  The great majority of this will eventually be sanded down.  This takes patience and a steady hand.  Yes it is tedious, it is messy (you get a ton of powder all over the place) and it takes time.  And time.  And more time.  And yes, you guessed it, more time.

I’ve had quite a bit of stress and aggravation in the last few weeks, so working on Barry’s truck today was very therapeutic.  This is the kind of stuff that “builds character”.  It gives you time to think and well…  I just enjoy doing this!

Sanding was done using an orbital air-powered sander, several sanding blocks of different shapes and sizes and different grades of sand-paper.  Of course this is July 4th weekend and it was nice and warm (no – it was HOT!).  Fortunately we had a few box-fans running and this made it tolerable.

Some folks say this is boring and a pain in the ass.  Nope.  This brought back fond memories of the endless hours I spent the summer I did this very same work on bowtie6 (click here).  What made the Cameo different was that the sanding had to be more careful because I did not want to dig into the fiberglass gel-coat.  After several hours we had this:


The end result, after a few hour’s worth of sanding.

What is left now is just a film of filler covering the “low” spots on the body panel.  If you look closely you can see some of the sanding blocks (on the top of the bed and on the floor).  We had air-powered versions too but this has to be done the old-fashioned way:  by hand.

Here is the cab on Barry’s cameo (yes, the photo is not perfect, I used my iPhone!):


The Cameo’s cabin.


The opposite side, after sanding was completed.

So what’s next?

Well…  We have some more sanding to do.  There were a few spots that needed some more filling and further sanding to get really, really smooth.  Then another coat or two of sanding primer followed by more sanding with even finer sandpaper.  The idea is to get the surface straight and smooth.

Man!  This was fun today.  If you have never done this kind of work before, you are missing out on one of the pure joys of auto-restoration.  I highly recommend it!

How is it done?

Filler is mixed from a paste in a can.  Usually you would get about a golf-ball sized amount and add a pea sized amount of catalyst.  This is then mixed very quickly on a special pad lined with paper until thoroughly blended.  Then the fun begins.  You must spread this with a special pad thin enough and quick enough while it is still malleable.  After just a few minutes there is a point-of-no-return when the stuff gets too hard and grainy.  On a hot day like today, the set time is even shorter.

Then, the filler is allowed to fully harden.  Once it is hard to the touch, one can start sanding.  The end result is a very fine powder that goes everywhere.  Yes, it has a special odour and when I say it goes everywhere I really mean it.  However, there is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment when you take an air-hose and then gently rub your hand on the body panel.  If you have done it right, it will be as smooth as a newborn’s arse.

I’ll have more updates soon…

MTM Hydro Professional Foam Lance Review

From what I’ve read on the auto detailing forums, the MTM Hydro Professional Foam Lance is the only way to properly wash a car.  This device is attached to your pressure washer and with the right kind of soap, a perfect layer of foam can be delivered to the surface of your car.

I did some research on the inter-webs and found there are several vendors.  Since I am not endorsing one or the other, I picked the one with the lowest price (and yes, they vary!) so if you decide to get one do your homework.  Sure enough, a few days after I placed my order the friendly UPS driver delivered a package with an MTM Hydro Professional Foam Lance and on Memorial Day weekend I decided to try it out.  Here is what I found…

What You Get in the Box

So what do you get in the box after in return for your hard-earned $79 bucks?  As you can see from the featured image, the box is nicely labeled and the contents are:  a lance assembly, two fittings, a clear plastic tube and the plastic bottle used to hold an auto soap mixture.  The clear plastic tube siphons soap mixture from the plastic bottle.

IMG_2046The lance is quite heavy and appears well made.  This picture shows the lance with the clear plastic siphon tube attached on the bottom;  on the right is the fitting that matches my pressure washer.  The top knob regulates the amount of soap mixture being sucked in and the black lance on the left works just like the tip of a pressure washer:  it regulated the sweep area (from a fan to a concentrated point) by turning one way or the other.

The bottle looks like this.


The Pressure Washer

I have a Sears gas-powered pressure washer, like this one:


From what I have read on the forums, finding the “right” fitting to match your trigger is a bit confusing.  Fortunately in my case, the correct fitting came in the box.  Here is what the MTM Hydro looks like with the proper fitting for my pressure washer:

IMG_2044This part was rather frustrating for me.  I tried several times to contact one of the vendors about the fittings and after several tries finally received a rather vague answer on whether the MTM Hydro lance would fit the Search trigger mechanism.  However all worked out right out of the box.

Using the MTM Hydro Professional Foam Lance

Once I got everything assembled and had the pressure washer up and running, let me just say this thing works very well.  Since I am doing a full report here for you, I will explain the good and the bad.

First, let me tell you the bad:  the Achilles heel of this whole affair is the bottle.  It is very cheap and flimsy.  During transit the box appears to have been bumped a bit and the bottle showed signs of being semi-crushed.  Look at this picture:

IMG_2049I tried to straighten out the crease a little, but this bottle is made of such thin material that I am afraid to mess with it too much in fear it will just out rip.  Another issue I find in the bottle is that when it is full of soap mix, it is extremely easy to cross-thread on the lace.  This is what the threads on the bottle look like:


And they thread into this:

IMG_2054However, if you take your time then you can get the bottle properly screwed in.  Bottom line, I see myself having to buy a replacement bottle sometime in the near future.  So it might not be a bad idea to get an “extra” bottle with your order.

Next the good:  this thing works.  But… Be aware the amount of foam will depend to a large extent on the quality of car-wash soap you use.  My first attempt was using Griot’s Garage car-wash:

IMG_2043And this is what it looks like after a minute or two after applying:

IMG_2038 IMG_2039 IMG_2041This soap gave good results.  I had two other bottles of car-wash I had previously bought at the local Auto Zone and those failed miserably producing almost no foam at all.  I realize there are probably better car-wash shampoo options out there, I’ll just have to find them.  When I do, I’ll have an update.

Oh and one more thing:  Keep an eye on the bottle as its contents get used up… 😉  In my case, the pressure washer had enough suction that it started to crush the bottle like an empty beer can.  Just watch the soap mixture!

In Conclusion

The foam lance worked very well.  It produced a very nice layer of foam and overall I was very pleased with how my S2000 and later, bowtie6 looked after all the foam was rinsed away.  Was it worth having to break out the pressure washer and all its attachments?  I guess I’ll have to try this out a few more times before I can say for certain.