Author Archives: James E.

Let’s swap the intake…and then some.

Most of this work was done in the summer/fall of 2016. I started this post a long time ago and am just now getting around to posting it. – JE

———————–

In the spring of 2016 I got a good deal on a GM ZZ4 performance intake manifold and matching chip that would fit nicely with the GM 305HO engine in my Avanti, so I figured I would swap them out. One thing led to another and in addition to the intake manifold I ended up replacing:

  • Water pump
  • Convert from fan clutch back to electric
  • New fan shroud
  • New radiator, upper and lower hoses
  • New alternator
  • New carburetor
  • New brake booster
  • New fuel pump
  • Cap, rotor, impulse coil
  • Oil Sender
  • Refinish air cleaner, replace with K&N filter
  • New Coolant overflow tank
  • Transmission cooler
  • Thermal wrap exhaust pipes
  • Thermostat and housing

Like many projects, it started out simple enough. Starting from the top, with the intake removed there was easy access to the water pump – the original cast-iron unit was rusty so I figured it was a good time to replace it with an aluminum unit. Thermostat and housing were inexpensive and easily replaced. A new coolant overflow tank and hanger from Studebaker International and upper and lower hoses finished it off.

With the water pump removed, there was easy access to the radiator, so I removed it and sent it to a radiator repair shop. They quoted what I thought was an obscene $400+ to refurbish it, so a quick trawl through the AOAI forums and I discovered what others had done instead. I ordered a nice aluminum radiator from Speedway Motors. The new, thicker, radiator meant the old clutch-style fan that the original owner had installed to replace the original “not up to the task” electric fan in 1986 no longer fit. The new radiator no longer had a transmission cooler, either.

Then it was back to Speedway for a transmission cooler, and then to Summit Racing for a modern fan controller. Finally, I got a new fan shroud and cooling fan from Zirgo.com to tie it all together.

In the course of replacing the water pump  I was right next to the alternator, which originally output 94 amps. I’d previously had good luck with the Powermaster brand so I went with a 140amp unit from them.

With all that out of the way, I figured I might as well replace the fuel pump, as i was confident it was original, as well.

The brakes had always been funny in the Avanti. When I first got it, the passenger side rear would lock up in anything remotely resembling a panic stop situation. I replaced the wheel cylinders, even though ones on the car looked like they had recently been replaced. Perhaps the previous owner had the same thought? Made no difference, though while I was in there I replaced the nasty looking brake master cylinder and flushed the fluid.

Shortly after this I was looking around underneath it again and I discovered that the metal brake line on the driver’s side rear axle was crushed. I presume someone put a tow hook around the axle at some point and crushed the brake line. Once that was replaced braking was better but still not great.

Spoke with Jon Myers at the AOAI/SDC meet and he suggested a rebuilt brake booster. A local club member had mentioned something similar so I sent it off to Jon in Ohio. A few weeks later it was returned and re-installed. Now I think it’s probably as good as it’s going to get with the original front discs and rear drums.

The original oil pressure sender was toast, and the current replacements required a 90 degree elbow fitting to clear the air cleaner/ignition distributor.

On the subject of the ignition distributor I also replaced the impulse oil, cap and rotor. Interestingly, the three wire connector on the ignition control module (ICM) can be fitted right side up or right side down. Some time chasing this one revealed I had reinstalled it incorrectly, which manifested itself in a strange running condition. The Chevrolet shop manual for the 84 Camaro came in extremely handy when diagnosing this issue.

Over the last year or so of running the car with all this work done, it would periodically quit and refuse to restart until the ICM was replaced. I had used a judicious amount of dielectric goop to insulate it, but it was still eating ICM’s like candy bars. I mentioned this to a co-worker and he encourage me to closely look at the grounds on the distributor. Sure enough, I had powder coated the hold down. With the powder coat removed, so far this seems to have cured the problem.

 

Advertisements

Got a light?

Sometimes it’s the little things in life…like the cigarette lighter, in this instance.

I don’t smoke, and while there’s little evidence the previous owner of my ’85 Avanti did, the lighter never worked right, the lid never closed properly and the ash receptacle was rusty and nasty.

The ash receptacle was easy enough – a call to Studebaker International and a replacement part was sent out right away and fit and look great. So great, it made the pitted surrounding area look like crap. Rather than buy another – I’m not even sure if they are available – I disassembled it by removing the lighter assembly and the ash receptacle. Then I sprayed it several coats of black plasti-dip, masking off what I didn’t want to have to clean off later.

The lighter assembly was trashed – lots of corrosion and crud. A test light showed that it had intermittent connectivity and cleaning it with a wire brush just made things worse as more and more of the metal disintegrated. Since I didn’t really want the lighter part anyway, just a working receptacle that I could stick a USB adapter into for my phone, etc.,  it didn’t really matter much to me what I ended up with so long as it fit and functioned.

A trip down to the road to my local O’Reilly Auto Parts and I quickly found exactly what I was looking for – Custom Accessories #10213 – virtually identical to the original part which made it install, connect and appear just like the one I removed, only this one functions great. I did replace the included incandescent bulb with a red LED which was easily done.

avanti lighter2

 

Adding a center console armrest

I love me a good center console armrest. The Avanti didn’t come with one, but an enterprising owner who must feel the same way that I do came up with a solution.

Boy, the car sure was dirty when I took those photos! Anyway, this is some sort of imported car console that the seller modifies slightly and fabs up a special bracket. I got mine from him in the velour material as he acquired it and then had my local trim shop re-upholster it in a blue that looked close. The flash in these photos really makes the blue look brighter than in it is real life.

Flips up and out of the way as shown in the third image when necessary but also rests nicely on the raised brake handle when parked, too. Little coin holder inside, and a small access hole at the back for snaking your phone charger/AUX cable through.

To get yours, email Charlie at “northeastavanti(at)aol.com” and he can set you up with one. Installation – no drilling required – was straightforward and all hardware is included along with photos and instructions.I highly recommend it.

Sorting the brakes…

The brakes had always been funny in the Avanti. When I first got it, the passenger side rear would lock up in anything remotely resembling a panic stop situation. A cursory inspection on a lift didn’t reveal anything, so I finally took it to what had previously been a shop I respected. They suggested wheel cylinders but were otherwise stumped.

I replaced the wheel cylinders, even though the ones of the car looked like they had recently been replaced. Perhaps the previous owner had the same thought? Made no difference, though while I was in there I replaced the brake master cylinder and flushed the fluid. Shortly after this I was looking around underneath it again and I discovered that the metal brake line on the driver’s side rear axle was crushed. I presume someone put a tow hook around the axle at some point and crushed the brake line. Once that was replaced braking was better but still not great.

Spoke with Jon Myers at the AOAI/SDC meet and he suggested a rebuilt brake booster. A local club member had mentioned something similar so I sent it off to Jon in Ohio. A few weeks later it was returned and re-installed. Now I think it’s probably as good as it’s going to get with the original front discs and rear drums.

I’ve talked with Turner Brakes about a conversion kit for the rears but he’s advised that his kit is not compatible with the ’85 models, so for now I will live with them as they are.

 

Blaupunkt Sacramento

blaupunkt

 

The original stereo in my ’85 Avanti was a Blaupunkt Sacramento that was apparently discarded and swapped for an AM/FM/Cassette Pioneer head unit and new rear speakers in November 1998 by the original owner. Having a soft spot for keeping the visible things “period correct” but wanting something a little more modern, I did some research into my options.

I discovered a guy in California (sadly now passed away and shop closed) who had an “old school” stereo repair place and he offered a service to completely go through a stereo and integrate an unobtrusive and otherwise invisible AUX input, which would allow me to use my iPhone via the headphone jack. He advised that he had no schematics or parts list for the Sacramento, and said that would speed the job up and make it less expensive.

First order of business was to find another Sacramento head unit. Easiest place to do this was to just search on eBay – and though they weren’t very common, one would pop up every month or so. Eventually I found one that looked to be in good physical condition, all connectors still attached, complete with knobs/faceplate and reported as “working when removed”.

Next up was a set of schematics – a bit easier to find after a trip to http://www.stereomanuals.com – $24 and a week or so later, I had a VERY nice quality reproduction of the original service/schematic/parts manual for the Sacramento. I made a copy for my stereo repair/service guy and sent it and the stereo off for him to work his magic. I’m still scanning this manual so that it’s as clean as can be. In the meantime, I’ve had a request for a PDF of the original operating instructions for the Sacramento – you can download it here (14mb).

My stereo guy ended up doing a major overhaul  on this “working when removed” head unit to include:

  • Tape drive motor and motor servo
  • All rubber parts replace
  • Donor display from a Blaupunkt CR-3001 as mine had a bad segment
  • Tape audio had a bad head cable and an intermittent AR switch
  • General clean, lube and adjust

Adding the AUX input is done by interrupting the first audio stage of the radio with impedance matching and switching circuit.

I am still looking for a pair of the original Blaupunkt 6×9 speaker grilles (color unimportant) like shown here:

blaupunkt speaker grille

Mine were removed and most likely discarded when the Pioneer speakers were fitted back in 1998 with the head unit. Please contact me if you have one or even two!

 

 

 

 

LEDs all around!

In my day job, we strongly encourage the use of LEDs in place of incandescents wherever possible. Naturally, I wanted to do the same with my Avanti.

In my ’85, I needed the following:

Front turn signals

Front side markers

Rear brake light

Rear turn signals

Reverse lights

Rear turn signals

Flasher Unit – Two required, one for turn signals and one for the flasher. I used the Signal Stat 262 Electronic Flasher. Make you get the electronic version as the non-electronic version is not suitable for LEDs. I have a few extra if you can’t find one locally or online.

About the same time I was doing this, the Summer/Fall 2014 issue of the AOAI magazine came in the mail, and Bill Henderson had written an article about replacing the instrument cluster lights with LEDs, so I took his advice and did that, as well. Much better lighting, brighter and the red glow is a nice touch.

My first reproduction part for the Avanti!

I never knew that the two star-shaped knobs on the outside of the Recaro seats were supposed to have little plastic discs covering the nut holding the knob in place – until I found one in my ashtray.

knobs

The disc is marked on the inside with PEKALIT which now translates into “unobtainium” based on my research. I did run across some nice guys over at Benzworld.com who have a need for these discs also on the Recaro seats that were used in the 500-series cars from the mid-80s.

I first tried my “go to” guy for short run molded plastic parts, but these parts were so thin that he had a great deal of inconsistency in getting these made with a urethane mold. I tabled the idea for a year or so until I located a new supplier who could make a fairly low cost CAD drawing, aluminum mold and also cast the parts for me, as well.

 cad

mold

The finished parts came in today, and I couldn’t be happier with them. The worldwide, lifetime market for these is in the low hundreds, at best, but I am happy to have these parts and to also have them available for anyone else who has the need.

I made a little video on them here. They are available for purchase on Ebay at $4 each, which includes free shipping anywhere in the USA.