The Red Devil Project
When I was 10 years old, a family friend came over to our house with his sister’s new red 1967 Corvette Stingray. She had just bought it, but in the first month of owning it, had got so many speeding tickets that she lost her insurance and license. So, she made a deal with him, that if he drove her to and from work, he could drive the car while she was at work. He came over to show it off. Don’t ask me how, but I talked him into letting me drive it. I got it up to 120 mph, and it scared the piss out of me, literally. Scared him so bad, he was vomiting. At the same time, it made me fall in love with that little red car. I wanted one ever since. In the early 1980’s, I became the official historian for the WWII US 702nd Tank Battalion Red Devils, and wrote the book series “Patton’s Troubleshooters” about them and the 80th Infantry Division Blue Ridgers in World War Two.
On August 17, 2017, I came across an ad for a red 1984 C4 Corvette Z51. It was badly neglected cosmetically, but mechanically it was very sound. My wife and I bought it. At first, I had planned to restore it to factory condition. Then, I met my friend, Darrin Watts. Darrin made me realize that restoring a C4 to factory condition was a waste of time and money, but what I could and should do, is restore it and remake it into the hot rod I had always dreamed of. It was never going to be a great investment to turn around and sell for a fortune like C1 and C2 Corvettes, but it could easily be a fulfillment of my childhood fantasy of being a fast, great-handling, great looking car to have lots of fun in! Being red, I decided to name her the “Red Devil”. Thus began my project to turn this badly neglected old car into the stuff that dreams are made of. Throughout this project, my wife, and my friends Darrin Watts and Mark Capozzelli have all be a huge support in this project, even if they sometimes think I am crazy (I am!).
Mark & Tressie Capozzelli and Darrin Watts
The car as I first saw it in the sale ad
Stopping to gas it up on my way home from buying the car
We bought the car about 7:30 in the evening, and I had an hour’s drive ahead of me to get it home. About halfway home, on the interstate, it got dark. I tried turning on the lights, but that wouldn’t work. A tow bill would have been insanely expensive, and the rural interstate was too dark and dangerous to pull off and try to fix the lights. So, I settled for having my wife follow me so no other cars would hit me from behind, and I used the lights from the cars ahead of me to see by. After a long, grueling, scary-assed ride, I finally made it home alive and without wrecking! When I got out of the car, my knees were weak and shaking, and my ass was killing me from the shitty factory seats and that extra-stiff Z51 racing suspension.
The morning after buying the car, safely at home!
In the light of day, I looked the car over and realized that it had a lot of problems. The interior was trashed, mice had nested in it, and the list of things that needed fixed was very long. The first thing I did, was start looking up videos, forums and Facebook groups to learn what I could about the specifics of this car. The first thing I bought, was a digital factory service manual on CD-ROM. It was not long after this, that I met Darrin Watts online. He had also just bought his own 84 C4 Corvette not long before I had, and his was in even worse shape than mine, so he’d started tearing into it, and fixing it up.
Showing the production date of the car as August 1983
Besides those crappy seats, the idiotic previous owner made a console cover out of wood, held on with Velcro!
The center of the dash featured an ancient Pioneer stereo
With a very nasty, filthy steering wheel, the car still featured its Atari-like cluster
The filth in this car was disgusting!
A couple problems that cropped up immediately, was the car had a broken windshield, and the hood kept getting stuck closed. The windshield had been broken by someone trying to reach under the hood with a tool, and release the hood latch. The hood latch cables were all stretched out, and the handle of the cables was broken off. In order to open the hood, you had to take part of the front wheel well loose, then reach up in there and manipulate the latch, on both sides! Well, that shit wasn’t going to work! Rather than replace the cables, the handle, etc., I decided to replace this stupidly designed system with a simple set of hot rod hood pins. The best spot to mount the pins, was the rear of the lower factory latches. I tried removing the latches entirely, but that allowed the hood to sit too low, pinching the wipers against the windshield. So, I came up with the idea of disabling the lower latches, and keep the remainder intact. That kept the hood elevated enough, but would prevent it from latching closed.
The disabled lower latch
The perfect mounting location for hood pins!
In order for the hood pins to pass through the hood, I first needed to make some witness marks on the hood to see where the pins touched. I did this by putting a dab of paint at the tip of each pin, then close the hood to leave a paint mark where they touched. Since the spot was on the edge of where the hood was molded, I could not just start drilling, and had to use my Dremel tool to cut away the edge of the molded part of the hood.
The location for the hood pin to pass through the hood
In order for this to work, I needed to drill holes in the two upper factory hood latch halves. To do this job, I bought a new Milwaukee 1/2 inch Titanium drill bit. The date was September 6, 2017. As I was tightening up the drill press on the drill bit, the chuck-key slipped, and my hand slid down the side of the drill bit. All I felt, was the impact of my hand hitting the bit. It took me a few seconds to realize, that I was cut. Ignoring the cut, I continued trying to finish the job. I went ahead and drilled out the two upper factory hood latch halves. As I finished, I glanced down, and saw a very large puddle of blood at my feet. Wrapping my finger in two heavy gauze pads, and two towels, I drove to the hospital. Turned out, I had cut the middle finger down to the bone, and sliced through an artery. $5,000.00 worth of stitches and bandages later, I was released.
The blood had soaked through both gauze pads and the two towels, and started soaking my jeans as I got to the hospital
For the record, new Milwaukee drill bits are very sharp!
The pin holes drilled through the upper hinge half and hood
As if slicing my hand open wasn’t enough fun, as I drilled the holes through the hood, left-handed, my drill bit hit and caught the edge of a piece of steel embedded in the fiberglass, twisting my drill and left wrist unexpectedly, giving me a bad sprain that hurt far worse, and took months to heal. Needless to say, I was frustrated in the extreme.
The factory seats I hated so much
One of the first factory items I had to get rid of, were the factory seats. This car came with the Z51 suspension, which is a race suspension, and thus is very stiff. Chevy’s engineers had to be some sadistic son-of-a-bitches to put seats like these in a car this stiff. That portion at the rear of the lower half, where your butt is forced to sit, feels like riding on a box of rocks. Those raised bolsters at the front of the lower sections, force your knees up, which in effect forces your body weight down into that rear area, making the pain even worse. Chevy got so many complaints about the car’s stiffness when the 84 Z51 came out, that starting the next year, they softened up the Z51 suspension. That was really stupid! The problem was not the stiffness of the suspension, which makes the car handle curves and corners like a dream, and was the secret why the 84 Z51 won every road race that year, but what they should have done was make better seats. I sold these seats to a man who was trying to restore a Corvette to factory condition, and he paid me $200 for what I was ready to throw in the trash! One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
The badly rotted and broken sun-visors which were removed
The new steering wheel
One of the first items I purchased for the car, after the hood pins, was a new steering wheel. The old wheel was about as nasty and ugly as can be. The new one was a Grant GT Series wheel, and I bought a Grant adapter made just for this model car, with its tilt/telescoping steering column. Another new item was a gently used factory console lid to replace that ugly and stupid pine board someone made, and attached with velcro.
The new console lid installed in place
Next, I removed the dash cover, the Atari video game-like instrument cluster, information center, “breadbox” and the ancient Pioneer stereo. The “breadbox” was Chevy’s precursor to an airbag, and was put in the car because the government required them to do something about passenger safety. Typical of Chevy, it was a half-assed, ugly thing, essentially a lump of foam covered in vinyl, in the shape of a breadbox attached to the dash in front of the passenger.
The box behind the information center, shown here, was not even attached, and was one reason the car squeaked so much
The underside of the dash cover had two tiny stereo speakers that were dry-rotted and had the wires torn loose
The Instrument Cluster
The information center
The ridiculous “Breadbox” that I seriously doubt ever saved a single life in a crash
The LCD instrument clusters in 84 Corvettes were notorious for having problems, and going bad. They may have looked futuristic and “cool” in 1984, but they were so bad, that before the year was over, Chevrolet was getting lots of complaints of them failing, and the next year, they made changes for 85. They continued to be problematic, and changes were made again in 86, and in 87, and in 88, and in 89. In 1990, they gave up entirely, and switched to another problematic (albeit less problematic) cluster design. The cluster in my car worked fine, but it was a replacement, and not original to the car. God only knew how long it would continue to function, and I was not about to spend the $300-$400 for a rebuilt one with a probable short lifespan. I sold my cluster and information center to the same man who bought my seats, for another $200. By this point, I had recently made friends with Darrin Watts, while searching for dash cluster solutions. I’d seen a couple others, where someone modified an existing cluster taken out of a different make and model car, and fitted it to a C4 Corvette. But quite frankly, they looked like hell hacked up with a hacksaw (literally). Darrin had started making his own cluster using the factory bezel, with a sheet of polycarbonate attached to that, and some excellent gauges fitted into that. Something like that was exactly what I wanted to do! And in the process, I began a great friendship.
Another thing that needed to go was the 3rd Brake light
At some point, someone had added a 3rd Brake Light to the car. When the 84 was produced, they were not mandated by the government yet, so it was not original to the car. Later, they did become mandatory. It was a bad design to begin with, where you could not even change a burned out light bulb without pulling the fixture off the car. This one was in such bad shape, that just trying to remove it, caused it to break. I didn’t like it anyway, and under Missouri law, if it was on the car, it had to work. So, it had to go. The next issue that had to be addressed, was the non-functioning right headlight motor that causes the headlight to raise up when on, and rotate down when the lights shut off. At first, I looked to buying a new one. All I found were rebuilt ones for $175. Then I came across a listing on eBay for a new one made in China for $39.99. I bought one. What arrived was not even close to being able to fit a 84 Corvette!
At top, is the Chinese motor, and the bottom is a 84 Corvette motor
My 84 headlight motor
Not wanting to spend $175 for a rebuilt headlight motor, I decided to rebuild the one I had. I’d read that the plastic gears in these motors was usually what went wrong with them, and replacing those gears and repacking with grease usually solved the problem as long as the electrical part of the motor was not burned out. I could hear this motor trying to work, so I believed that the electrical portion was probably okay. I ordered a set of gears, and took the motor apart to rebuild it. Sure enough, I found that the prongs that engage the black gear had not been fitted down into the gear properly, and stripped out the gear. So, I replaced the gears, and made extra sure those prongs were fitted down into the black gear properly.
The stripped out black plastic gear
Another thing I wanted to do, was replace my original incandescent headlight bulbs with newer LED headlights. LED bulbs burn brighter, last longer, and use much less power, making life easier on your car’s alternator. I found a set of LED headlight bulbs on eBay, for $20 with free shipping. When they arrived, I discovered they were wired wrong for this car, so I rewired them to the proper positions for ground, low beam and high beam positives. They were indeed much brighter than the old yellow incandescent bulbs, and gave a nice white light.
LED low beam
LED high beam
Low beam at night
High beam at night
Another couple new things I wanted to add, were a rear spoiler and some LED taillights. This was when I discovered yet another of Chevy’s major fuckups on early C4 Corvettes. Rather than make the taillights accessible from screws outside, they made them mount with screws on the inside of the body. Later on, they did correct that in later C4’s, but stories abound of guys trying to simply change burned out light bulbs, and either cutting up their arms or even being physically stuck with their arm in the car and needing to be rescued by firefighters. I got my arms all torn to hell trying to get my old taillights out, all of which had broken mounts. The only ways to get to them, were to try reaching them from below, squeezing between the body and inner bumper, or reach your arm in through the license plate hole, or through the gas-filler-door hole. Needless to say, I was cussing every single C4 Corvette engineer to no end. I found a spoiler, made like the ones Chevy had as an option, and bought it. It was just primed, and needed painting. Luckily, a local hardware store had a cheap paint that was an almost perfect color match for the car.
I also found some new factory style wipers that would clear the hood
After a week’s work, and some seriously torn up arms, I had the old, broken taillights out
My original intent was to buy LED bulbs for my old taillight housings. Since they had broken mounts, they too needed replaced. I found some LED taillight fixtures, with the bulbs built in. By this point, I was not about to ever go through having to deal with the ridiculous methods available to get access to the taillight mounts again, or anything else located in the back of the car again. I decided to cut myself some permanent access ports. I took a lot of crap from various Corvette people about this, but I didn’t give a rat’s ass. I measured out, and cut two ports in the top rear deck. Initially, I had planned to make covers for these ports, that could be screwed down. Then, the more I thought about it, I scrapped that idea in favor of adding vents, which would allow air that would otherwise get trapped in the rear of the body, to escape, reducing drag somewhat, and increasing downdraft somewhat. As it turned out, the access ports have turned out to be handy, as I have made use of them six times so far, working on the car.
One of the new LED lights
Cutting the access ports
Access to the taillights, power antenna and all rear wiring is now a breeze!
The new LED taillights installed (not yellow looking in person, red)
Another new part I was thrilled to get, a radiator coolant overflow tank
The access port cover vents
My friend Darrin made these awesome speaker pods for me (two on right are rear, two on left doors)
I found the last set of four Bilstein Z51 shocks on the shelf in the US at the time
To help vent the engine compartment, I got a 4 inch Harwood Cowl
Cutting the hood for the Harwood Cowl
Stripping out the nasty, smelly old carpet revealed the original color of the car
According to the records, the only color of red in a 1984 Corvette was Bright Red. However, in between the 82 C3 Corvette and the release of the 84 C4 Corvette, Chevy actually used a wine colored red paint, that you won’t find mentioned in the records anywhere. My car was built in August 1983, and was one car that was painted in that wine colored red. At some point before it was sold, Chevy repainted it to bright red. Stripping out the nasty, mouse-urine smelling old gray carpet revealed the true color underneath.
Before installing new carpet, I insulated with all new 10mm heat/sound barrier, both of which really benefit a C4 Corvette tremendously due to all the heat and noise that comes through the cabin.
Next item to get installed, was a LeMans type gas filler. The original gas door tended to collect dirt and leaves. The day I bought the car, the gas door was packed solid with dirt and leaves. I always liked the LeMans type gas filler as a clean, quick way to fuel a car.
To connect the LeMans filler to the gas tank with a hose, the lip of the tank filler needed cut off
The center of the gas door is offset slightly from the tank filler, but works perfect with gas nozzles at gas stations
My first attempt to replace the crappy factory seats with something better
Unfortunately, with my being tall, these seats wouldn’t work for me
A trial fit of my racing harness bar after installing carpet
Removing the brake master cylinder, revealed it was full of gunk
The brake vacuum booster was rusted through
Comparing the old booster to the new one
New booster installed
New master cylinder installed
My new “used” console bezel with all new components installed
Beginning the process of reinstalling the console
Trial fit of my new 96 leather sport seats
Removed the plastic box where the information center used to be (outlined in red)
To make my new double-din stereo fit, I needed to make cuts in the areas marked, to remove that strip at the back
To fit the stereo, I needed to make cuts in the dash bezel as well
My race harness bar, repainted, and installed
My racing harnesses installed
My old rear brake rotors and shocks removed and replaced
I bought this removable panel to cover the inside of the Targa top to block the sun on hot days
The sun beating down through the Targa top glass
The Targa top panel installed, blocking the hot sun
Starting to remove the old front shocks and brakes
Someone had literally glued the old rotors on, so the glue had to be chiseled off
The new Bilstein Z51 shock installed
New shock, and all new brake components
Last (drivers) brake and shock to remove
Front driver shock and brakes installed
Ready to bleed all the brakes
I started bleeding the brakes with the passenger rear wheel, but first, I needed to install new braided steel brake lines on the rear wheels. What an adventure that turned out to be! The passenger side factory brake line fitting to the hard line was being very stubborn, and probably had not been off for 35 years. Try as I might, it would not budge, and I sure did not want to destroy that hard-line, so I had to be careful. I tried repeated soakings in PB Blaster, to no avail. Finally, I decided to try heating up the metal fittings with a propane torch. I’d already disconnected the other end of the flexible hose from the rear caliper, so any heat could escape the other end of the hose. I was careful to confine the heat I was applying to just the two metal fittings at the front end of the hose. Every few seconds, I would stop, hit the fittings with some more lubricant, and try working them loose with two pair of channel lock pliers, then apply more heat. All of a sudden, “POW”, right in my face! Instinct took over, and I fell backwards in self-preservation and utter shock. I nearly pissed myself! I sat back up, and looked to see what happened. Evidently, the rubber hose had collapsed inside, without any appearance of having done so on the outside. That had left a short pocket of non-collapsed hose near the front. When the heat built up enough, that super-heated hot air in the air pocket inside the hose expanded enough to blow the hose off the fitting it was crimped to, hence the explosive sound I’d heard! After giving my heart a chance to slow down below the speed of light, and checking to see if I needed to go put on dry pants, I went back to work heating up the two metal fittings, which now came off relatively easy, since there was no longer any air pocket behind them holding air pressure against them. I installed the new braided steel hose. The other side, thank God, was not so dramatic, and I got its hose installed too, and began bleeding the brake lines.
In order to remove the old spare tire carrier, I had to cut the mounting bolts with a hacksaw
Because the car had been badly neglected, left parked for years, the throttle linkage rusted solid, and required 5 days of soaking in oil to free
I am removing every last Corvette emblem from this car, and replacing with my own Skull & Crossbones ones
At last, it was time to install the double-din JVC stereo
They are not pretty, but my homemade aluminum mounting brackets worked perfectly
Houston, we have power!
Satisfied with my cuts at top and bottom in the bezel were good, I just need to make panels to cover the holes on the sides
I found an oversized blank faceplate, and cut it down to make side panels
Side panels cut, and glued & bolted in place on the bezel back
Next, came making a aluminum panel wrapped in carbon fiber to go where the information center once sat
Holes drilled in the panel, and mounted to the bezel
The LED lighted toggle switches that would go on my new switch panel
The first switch installed
All my switches installed
By this point, I finally had my throttle linkage freed up and working again!
I removed the cruise control switch (left) and installed a new brake light switch (right)
My new sun visors were installed
Next, I installed my new quick release Targa top bolts! Love these!
A new air filter was in order for the Crossfire Fuel Injection
New, inexpensive, but impressive horns were installed to replace the broken factory ones
Repainted, the console side panels were installed
The previously non-working console lid lock was now working properly after adjusting
The console side panel carpeting could finally be installed!
The seats, and door sills could finally be installed!
The Corvette emblems on the door sills and seats will be the only ones left on the car
My racing harness belts are finally in place
The console bezel is finally installed!
My signature emblem installed on the console
The new shift indicator, while dirty, is very nice compared to the old, badly scratched up one
Ashtray in place, and new cigarette lighter fully functioning
New double LED shift indicator lights working. Chevy only put one light here.
New LED console lid light working!
Console lid finished, and MUCH nicer than the old board that used to sit here!
Shift knob and button finally done!
Updating the stereo firmware
Testing out the newly updated stereo
Trying out newly installed stereo wallpaper
The wallpaper I chose
New aluminum switch covers installed
My new fixed custom Hella projector headlights arrive
Headlights came with halogen bulbs, that will be replaced with LED bulbs
LED bulbs installed
The old rearview mirror, peeling and nasty
New “used” rearview mirror is spotless!
New fixed headlights being installed
In order to clear the LED heat sinks, the upper wheel wells needed a notch cut in them
Headlights installed at last!
Testing the headlights
Testing the new rearview camera on the stereo at dusk
Playing a YouTube video on the stereo
The stereo weather app
The stereo Yelp app
Testing out the stereo ability to play music from a USB thumb drive
To begin my custom dash cluster, this had to be cut from the factory bezel
My custom dash cluster made from 1/8 inch aluminum plate
Trial fit of the aluminum plate to the cut factory bezel
The bezel bolted to the aluminum plate
The squared section of the bezel cut off the center
My gauge positions marked on the plate
Cutting gauge holes begins
The first gauge hole, which then needed sanded down/enlarged to fit the gauge skin tight
The first gauge finally fitted
The speedometer fitted!
All gauges fitted, the panel will next get painted after some final sanding on the bezel
The car finally gets moved on its own for the first time in 2 years
Testing out the new headlight low beams
Testing out the new headlight high beams
One of my first and biggest goals with the car, was to get enough done, so that on July 14, 2019, on my wife’s and my 40th Wedding Anniversary, I could take it for a shakedown cruise with her (my second time to drive it since we bought it), and then let her drive it for the first time. It wasn’t quite as ready as I hoped, but ready enough, and we did indeed take that cruise. The car performed very well. It showed me some things that still needed attention I wasn’t aware of, and proved to me that some things I’d done were well justified. Katy had fun driving the car!
My custom made Targa brace arrived and got installed
I installed a device to hold the rear hatch open slightly, to allow better air flow while driving
I got lucky, and found a barely used Duraflex Twin Turbo fiberglass hood for sale just three miles from my home, and quickly snatched it up for a song. These sell for about $1200 plus shipping, and I got mine for about 1/4 that. The original owner had just got it installed halfway onto his 85 Corvette, then left the car abandoned on the street. A guy bought the 85 at a police auction because he wanted the engine and transmission, and he sold me the hood. The hood had some minor damage along the edges mostly, from mishandling, but that can all be fixed fairly easily.
The old hood, removed for the first time in 35 years!
The new hood installed, and only required some minor adjustments
The new hood is so light weight, it could stand up with only the small hood supports in place
The spots marked where hood pin holes needed to be drilled
The new hood came with late model Corvette hood light mounts
Paint applied as witness marks, to see if the hood would clear the air cleaner
The hood fully closed, and cleared the air cleaner
The hood pins temporarily installed
The hood mostly aligns with the body, but will need some finishing bodywork
With the hood pins on, the hood clears the windshield wipers
A new profile!
Beginning the job of cutting the ventilation holes under the hood, which is made without them
Notches cut along the center supports, to allow fresh air to reach the engine better
The holes under the hood almost done
That box under the hood and in front of the radiator was supposed to have a fresh air hole from the factory, but didn’t.
So, new holes were cut with hole saws to allow fresh air to reach the engine.
The headlights were installed and tested
Late model upper wheel wells were installed, and did not need notches cut to clear the headlights like the old ones
Next, a late-model gas-assist hood prop was installed, and the old one removed
Late model, glass lens hood lights were then installed
The hood cowl vent rear openings were enlarged to allow better air flow
A year ago, I promised Gavin and Skyli that on the first day of school this year, I would pick them up from school in the Corvette, so all their school pals could see them being picked up in a “race car”. Today was their first day back. Yesterday, Gavin asked if Papa was picking them up in the Corvette today. I made grandma lie, and she told him no, he’ll get you in the Honda, he can’t fit you both in that Corvette, it doesn’t have a back seat!
I have been sick as a dog with the flu for the last week, spending most of that time passed out on the couch. Luckily, today I felt a little better, and at the same time, I sure as hell wasn’t going let those kids down. I left early, and timed it just right, so that when they opened the gates, there were just enough cars in front of me that they filled the half-circle on the playground towards the exit driveway, and I was behind them all at the top of the entrance driveway. So, when the kids all came out, they couldn’t see me behind the other cars. One of the teachers who is a monitor for the car-rider kids, called Gavin & Skyli. They came out between two other cars, and I could tell they were looking for that blue Honda, and both looked tired.
Then Gavin saw the Corvette, and his face lit up like a Christmas tree, and about that moment, Skyli, right behind him saw it too, and she too lit up. As we drove the half circle past the kids still waiting, they were waving and calling out to their friends to make sure everyone saw them. I roared down our street to our house, and stopped, asking if they wanted to go around the block. A unanimous scream of “YES!” I made sure they were buckled in to the racing harness good, and took off down our street, punching into it. I hadn’t really got up to full speed by time we got to the end of the block, but it was fast enough that they thought they were strapped into a rocket to Mars, screaming with delight, and chanting, “Yes, yes, yes!” As I took the corner, we fishtailed just a tad, and we finished the circuit around the block at a safe but healthy speed.
When we got back, they were begging to go again, like a carnival ride. I asked if either of them wanted to drive. “NO!” I told Gavin that I was exactly his age the first time I drove a car, and it was a red 67 Corvette. I told him that I got it up to 120 mph, and it scared me so bad I pissed myself, but I fell in love, and it took me 50 years to get my own red Corvette. About that point, Skyli pipes in, and says, I thought you fell in love with Grandma! After I quit laughing, I let her know that was long before I met grandma! Needless to say, that was a great finish for their first day back to school. And, a promise kept by Papa!
Sample of the future paint color
How my new gauges will appear when lit at night
I ran into some major paint problems, trying to paint that woodgrain finished center bezel and cluster bezel, so I gave up on them and bought some very nice ones that were already black. That meant I needed to do surgery on them to make them do what I wanted. First, was my center bezel.
Next came the instrument cluster. After assembly, I did a trial fit, only to discover that the plastic wall behind the cluster would not allow it to sit back far enough. So, I had to do surgery on that with my Dremel Moto-Tool with its 90-degree attachment so I could get into the bowl shaped area. Finally, I had that cut out enough, and achieved a final fit. I am now ready to start wiring up the gauges!
Not long ago, I ordered some custom embroidered ball caps for myself and my pit crew!
I installed LED light bulbs in my under-hood work lights, and then wired those to a switch in the center bezel. They came with mercury switches, that come on whenever you raise the hood, but since I work on the car mostly in daylight, I didn’t want them coming on and draining the battery, unless I intend for them to. The LED bulbs are much brighter than the factory bulbs were, and on the new hood, they point down at the engine, instead of back to the rear of the car like the old factory hood lights did.
I started wiring the Red Devil dash cluster, and ran into some problems right away. Wasted yesterday and today messing with the fuel gauge. Finally came to the conclusion the gauge itself was bad, and had to order a new one from Speedway Motors. Darrin Watts was a big help going through it with me, and convincing me I wasn’t loosing my mind. A fuel gauge is a very simple thing, so you would not expect complications from one, which is why I started with it first. I’ll try to send this one back to Marshall Instruments to be fixed, and will use the new Autometer one in the meantime when it arrives. I did wire up the Volt Gauge, and it worked just fine! I also tested my turn signal and high beam LED lights, and they work fine too. I hustled and got my gauges and lights all wired. I ran into a few problems, but just moved along and will troubleshoot the problems later. All my gauge lights but one is working. My turn signal indicator lights don’t come on, unless the headlights are on, and even then don’t blink. My oil pressure gauge is pegged to the bottom right. I didn’t run it long enough to see if my water temp gauge is working. My tachometer works beautifully, as does the volts gauge. I need to drive it to see if the speedometer works. The high beam headlight indicator light works perfect. So, some progress, and some work to be done yet.
This morning, I test-drove the Red Devil, and the speedometer didn’t work, so I need to try another wiring idea for it. If that fails, I will just say screw it and go with a GPS sender. I got all my gauge lights working now. I talked to the gauge manufacturer today, and they will fix that fuel gauge for me. Meanwhile, the substitute fuel gauge is going to be delivered tomorrow. They told me that my water temp and oil pressure gauges won’t work with the factory senders, and I need to use the ones they sent me. So, I spent the rest of the day installing those. What a pain in the ass that was! Tomorrow, I need to wire those up, then test them and the speedometer.
Early this morning, I took the grandkids to school, came home, and got busy on the Red Devil before the heat kicked in. Wired up the oil pressure sender/gauge, and the water temp sender/gauge. Both gauges working now like they should, and all gauge lights working. I then road-tested it to see if my rewire job on the speedometer worked. It did move the needle, but never got over 10 mph, and I know I had to be doing 40 mph. It could be that it just needs to be calibrated, or, it may not be getting a full signal from the factory sender. Will try calibrating it later. The calibration button I installed did work, and cycled through “Trip 1”, “Trip 2” and “Odometer”. If calibrating doesn’t fix it, then I have a back-up plan. I found a new Autometer GPS Speedometer Sender on sale last night, for about half price, and it is scheduled to arrive Thursday. In the meantime, if I get the factory sender to work right, I’ll stay with that, and send the GPS unit back when it arrives. If not, then I will go with GPS. That Autometer unit is the best on the market, and I couldn’t resist grabbing it at that price, especially considering they only had two left at that price. My substitute fuel gauge is supposed to arrive today, from Speedway Motors. Getting that in, working, and sorting out a bug in my turn signal indicator lights are all that remains to do yet, besides the speedo. Sure was great seeing those oil pressure and coolant temp gauges work right this morning!!
Houston, we have a working Fuel gauge! It doesn’t match the rest of the gauges, but close enough to hold me until I can get the matching one repaired by Marshall!! Also got my turn signals working! That one was my fault. At some point, I’d unplugged the flasher, and forgot to reinstall it. Duh! In all fairness, I have been one busy s.o.b., so a few things are bound to leak out of my old brain!
At long last, the final piece of the puzzle has fallen in place! After two years of working and waiting, I have a fully working dash cluster! Late today, my Autometer GPS Speedometer Sender arrived. Install was quick and easy. However, the calibration didn’t work like it was supposed to, so I tried calibrating it through the speedometer. That didn’t work. I was on the verge of giving up, and tried one more time (after dozens of attempts) to press the calibration button on the GPS unit. This time, the speedo needle moved. You are supposed to stop when it hits 80 mph, but if you go over 80, you have to start over. It went over. So, I tried again. Again, the button wasn’t working. I kept pushing that damned button so many times my fingers hurt. Finally, it started to move the needle again. I stopped it at 60 mph, then kept briefly pushing the button until I got it to 80. Tried driving, but the needle didn’t move. Tried calibrating through the speedo again, and it didn’t work. Tried a second and finally a third time, and drove it the required 1 mile. This time, I noticed that the pulse count coming from the sender was much higher. At the end of the mile, I stopped the calibration, and let it reset. Sure as hell, the speedometer started working like it was supposed to. This photo is blurry because I was shooting photos while driving. Now, I can finally button up my dashboard, and move on to other things that need fixed, like my doors!! Color me, one very happy s.o.b.!
Passenger side knee-pad re-carpeted and re-installed! Getting it out was a pain in the ass, getting it back in was easy. Driver’s knee-pad carpeted and installed, and cluster bezel actually screwed down!!
I glued down the dash-pad cover with some 3M spray adhesive. For now, it is just sitting in place and not fastened down, because I have a few more things to do yet. Sure feels good to have it back in the car though!!
I shot the speaker fabric covers on the dash with some flat black spray paint. They were all faded and nasty looking, so it freshened them up a lot. While I was at it, I painted the raw fiberglass of the underside of the hood with what remained of the paint. Looks much better now. Before and after shots.
My sincere thanks to Darrin Watts! A little over a year ago, he made himself some speaker pods for his C4 Corvette, and I liked them so much I begged him to sell me a set for the Red Devil. Darrin covered his in 4-way stretch vinyl, and I will as well when I have more time. Because I am pressed for time before Winter sets in, and work grinds to a halt, I chose to just paint them as an expedient. Today, I got the back ones in, hooked up and anchored. The vinyl I’ll be using later will be approximately the same color scheme, just muted somewhat, and the red will be a shade darker. But, for now, its good enough to allow me to move on to other pressing things on the car.
I installed the new wheel well I got for the passenger side rear. Sure looks pretty in place! My old one was all broken and looked like shit. Then I proceeded to remove the ground effects (for those who don’t know, that is those flared body panels around the bottom). Whomever installed them originally, really did a crappy job of it, and not only were they hanging down 2-3 inches, they were packed solid with mud, leaves and dead snails. They probably weighed 5-6 times more than normal, just from the debris. I’m going to sand those down and repaint them. I had to take those off, so I could get the vented side panels off, and especially the passenger side one, so I can replace the heater blower motor. I have some cool louvers that Darrin Watts made for me, that I will install on those side panels while I have them off. Busy, but productive day!
I have been working on the Red Devil, to replace the old heater blower motor. I had a new one, made in China, that came with the car when I bought it, because the lazy s.o.b. I bought the car from was too lazy to install it. It was just a motor, without the cage fan that goes on it. Yesterday, I installed it, but then it wouldn’t run. So, I messed around all day, half of it with Darrin Watts on the phone, messing with the wiring and trying to figure out why it wouldn’t work.
For starters, it doesn’t run on a fused circuit, but rather on a relay. The relay is supposed to be mounted under the front of the blower motor, but somebody had dismounted it, and zip-tied it to a support strut. It was obvious that that same somebody had messed with the wiring going into the relay, so God only knew what the hell they had done. I tested every possible combination of wires on the relay and the AC resistor for resistance (Ohms) and voltage, with the car power off, on, the climate control on AC, the climate control on heat, you name it.
Finally, I pulled the relay and the AC resistor, and cleaned up the contacts real good. Because of where they were positioned, moisture getting under the hood had corroded the electrical contacts really badly. Once those were clean, I reconnected the resistor and the relay, making sure the wires fit tight, and miracle of miracles, the blower worked. However, it sounded like shit.
So, first thing this morning, I went to Autozone, and grabbed a new blower motor that came with its own cage fan for $27. I installed it, and bolted my lower wheel well back in place, and tested it. Works like a charm, and is as quiet as can be. The motor I got at Autozone comes with a 10 yr warranty, and is made in Canada. The one I installed yesterday, was made in China. After I got it out, I discovered that the cage fan was rubbing against the motor. Comparing it to the new one, I noticed that the old fan was taller than the new one.
So, lesson is, if you buy a heater blower motor, spend the few extra dollars and get one that comes with a matching fan cage! One last tip! The new motor is all painted. Where the ground spade mounts on, be sure to scratch off the paint where it attaches to the motor, so you get a good electrical ground. When I was done, I remounted the relay back down below the front of the motor where it belongs, so it is not as likely to catch moisture again.
Back when we first bought the Red Devil, the first part I bought for it was a headlight switch knob. The “Corvette” sellers on eBay wanted unGodly amounts of money for a simple knob because of that “Corvette” name. I found one made for a Camaro, which was exactly like the Corvette knob, for $10 and free shipping. When I pulled the dash apart, the knob went into my small parts bucket, and sat for the last two years. Last week, I dug it out, but the little clip that went inside the knob was missing. So, I searched and found a brand new one on eBay, and ordered it. It arrived today, and got installed on the car.
Also, my cooling fan for the radiator was wired so that it came on whenever the ignition was turned on. Normally, that hasn’t been a problem, but yesterday, when I was running all those tests for the heater blower motor, I had to turn the car on and off so many times, it drained the battery. Mark Capozzelli urged me to buy a Hayden thermostatic fan switch, which hooks up to the radiator, and turns on your fan whenever the temp hits whatever you set it to, much like a house thermostat.
I was going to install that today, but discovered that the temp probe that attaches to the radiator is held on by a one-time-use plastic thing kind of like a zip-tie. Once it is installed, it can’t be removed, unless you cut the zip-tie thing. Since I have a new 3-row aluminum race radiator waiting to be installed, I decided to just save this device for that, instead of the factory radiator I have in there now. For now, I wired up the cooling fan to one of my toggle switches on the dash. The switches are rated at 20 Amps. The cooling fan is on a 20 Amp circuit relay from the factory, but actually only draws 14 Amps. So, the switch should be fine. I got that wired up with some 12 gauge wire, and it works perfect.
I got my fender side panels reinstalled, with the aluminum louvers that Darrin made for me last year. Also shot my first coat of black semi-gloss on the ground effects. That old red paint was all beat to hell from gravel and other road debris.
Have shot four coats of black semi-gloss on my ground effects, wet sanding the runs in between coats. I made use of the heavy morning dew to do my wet sanding. Started working on my doors too. I removed the old, painfully slow window regulators, the old worn out outer weatherstripping, the electric lock actuators, and the crappy old Bose speaker boxes. I installed the new-style window regulators I got from Ecklers. Also installed new outer weatherstrip. The doors are back together now, minus the door-panels, and the regulators make the windows go up and down much, much faster. There are a couple window adjustment nuts at the back, that were made for the 1/8 inch thick old regulators. The new regulators just have thin sheet metal in those locations, so I need to modify those yet, so I can set the windows’ angle and keep it where it needs to be. But, for the moment, the worst part is done. I also still need to replace the weatherstrip that goes around the outside edge of the door too. One more big empty box of car parts no longer taking up space in my basement! I need to do some repairs to my door panels yet before I install them.