Parts Used In This Episode

The Industrial Depot
Tools, Hardware, Shop Supplies

Episode Transcript

(Tommy)>> You're waching Powernation!

(Tommy)>> Today on Detroit Muscle we lend a helping hand turning this mean green machine into a reliable daily driver. We'll dive deep into a few odds and ends and give you guys some quick tips to help maintain your ride. [ Music ] [ engines revving ] [ Music ]

(Tommy)>> Joel and I are thankful for the things that we have and enjoy giving back. With what we're working on today it has some age, which usually translates to these parts aren't just sitting on the shelf. RockAuto has a huge and diverse inventory that will help us get this big body beater driveway rescued. [ Music ]

Where here big guy. [ dog barking ]

(Tommy)>> I don't think this fella here's gonna want to be on camera.

At least we get to see his car, and I've been excited about this one for a while. I'm a big fan of these old big bodies.

(Joel)>> You've owned a couple of them, haven't you?

(Tommy)>> You could say that. This 1971 Caprice hard top is a snapshot in time of cars of this era. Bold egg crate grilles, wide wheelbases, and land yacht body styles that defined an era in American automotive history. This second gen Caprice was completely redesigned with updates like cuts into the trunk lid that help increase air flow into the interior.

(Joel)>> This particular model had a 200 horsepower 400 cubic inch V-8, and even had the fender skirts. So flat tires were extra fun. The interior is a special treat in itself with what can only be described as a gangrene fleur-de-lis pattern. The vinyl tops weren't designed to last, and this one is a clear case of what can happen after 50 years.

(Tommy)>> Wonder if there's any puddles under here? No big spots, couple of small ones. It ain't really leaking like a sieve it don't look like.

(Joel)>> Just tranny fluid?

(Tommy)>> Yep!

(Joel)>> The interior's nice!

(Tommy)>> For a fixer upper of course. [ dog barking ]

(Tommy)>> Which we wouldn't be fixing that.

(Joel)>> Take a peek.

(Tommy)>> She's a peach! This thing's supposed to be a 400 small block, and by the looks of things it hasn't ever been changed. Pretty good chance she's a 400.

(Joel)>> You can get these in a big block too, couldn't you?

(Tommy)>> You can get a 402. What was crazy in this era that GM really didn't make a 402 emblem per se. They were all 400 classifications in the trucks and the cars.

(Joel)>> Want to see if she'll fire?

(Tommy)>> Heck yeah! I'll bet this thing's gonna purr like a kitten. This thing's got those chrome tips out the back. I bet she's got a little tone to it. [ engine starting ] [ engine dying ]

(Joel)>> Oop! She wants to. [ engine starting ]

(Tommy)>> Power steering pump's howling. Might need to check and see if it's got any fluid in it. [ engine idling ]

(Tommy)>> What's the mileage on this car?

(Joel)>> 82,000. 8-2!

(Tommy)>> I think this old thing deserves a road trip.

[ Music ] It's got a good rumble to it.

(Joel)>> Yeah it does. [ engine rumbling ]

(Tommy)>> See if the wipers work. [ Music ]

(Joel)>> Where's the button.

(Tommy)>> Right over there it says washer.

(Joel)>> Let's use that one.

(Tommy)>> What'd you duck for? The leaves are on the outside of the window.

(Joel)> They are aren't they? Not too bad for 50, 60 years old? 70, 60, 50? For being an old car.

(Tommy)>> For being an old let's just talk general.

(Joel)>> Wouldn't use it as a daily driver though.

(Tommy)>> You know, that's one of the things. A lot of times whenever you take one of these old cars out of hibernation it's kind of a work in progress and there's several pieces that it's a good idea to replace because when they go down on you they never seem to lay down in a convenient location. Water pump's not leaking out of the main shaft until it is.

(Joel)>> A lot of times when that stuff hasn't been replaced to me that means it's just due.

(Tommy)>> There's kind of a maintenance to owning one of these old cars. Just because it's not leaking right now doesn't mean it isn't on the verge. You get in the brakes a little bit it seems like the car kinda nose dives. A shock won't leave you hanging, but it can improve the ride on this thing. It seems a little squishy, which this is a whole lot of car it's trying to dampen too. I really enjoy riding in back neighborhoods like this cause you never know what will be sitting in the driveway behind the house, and this car is a perfect example. You never know what's gonna be sitting there.

(Joel)>> Thrill of the hunt. I think we've all at one time or another reached that point in a project where we just get burnt out and just don't want to work on it any more or finances. Something gets in the way and just gets put on the back burner. Hoping we can get this guy some help and you can go back to enjoying this thing.

(Tommy)>> We're not gonna restore it because you know restoring something like this can take months, if not years. Just get it back to dependable so he can enjoy it. [ Music ]

(Joel)>> Up next, our buddy Tom Taylor stops by to test drive our heavy Chevy.

(Tommy)>> Well Tom, what do you think about this beauty?

(Tom)>> I think it's a beauty. I can't believe how nice it looks. It's got the rub strips down the side. Those haven't fallen off, and got the original hub caps, and vinyl top looks a little iffy. Original paint even looks pretty decent.

(Tommy)>> But overall, it's in pretty nice condition, but it still needs some RockAuto love for sure.

(Tom)>> RockAuto has some of the little emblems, sun visors, and carpet. Stuff to fix the details on an old car like this.

(Tommy)>> It's pretty neat how RockAuto has restoration components along with let's say maintenance pieces, brakes, air filters, and so on.

(Joel)>> And I think as far as the maintenance goes that's probably our biggest question on the car itself. You get in it, and you drive it, and you can just feel something's off.

(Tom)>> Certain things like fuel filters and air filters, you know they can be replaced no matter what.

(Tommy)>> Even some of the age carried over under the hood.

(Tom)>> It looks real complete.

(Joel)>> We can tell the master cylinder and the brake booster have been replaced. So, it has had a little bit of maintenance, but there's some question marks on the carburetor. You guys not only carry rebuild kits for the carburetors, but you also carry the carburetors themselves, right?

(Tom)>> Yeah, you can do it yourself or get one that's remanufactured by the professionals.

(Tommy)>> This car also has that antique point set in it. That's old school. To some people that's like drum brakes. They see all that stuff in there and they're gonna be like, I don't know what to do.

(Tom)>> RockAuto has these cool little kits. You can update from points to electronic ignition that goes right inside the distributor cap.

(Tommy)>> Check out that interior in there. This is enough to look at over here I know. It's quite impressive.

(Joel)>> Now if there's two things that this car's not short of its class and sophistication, and it starts right here in the interior. This is what my dad like to call baby puke green. It's really not in bad shape though.

(Tom)>> The back seat looks like almost new.

(Joel)>> And now you guys offer restoration components for interior solutions as well, right?

(Tom)>> Yeah, for some cars we have dashboard covers that get rid of all those cracks, and sun visors, and cranks for the windows, and certainly carpet, and you can get the original color or you can do some crazy, fun new color.

(Tommy)>> It's about time for a road trip.

(Joel)>> You want to hop in that driver's seat the keys are in it. Tommy has permanent shotgun. So, I guess I'm riding in the back.

(Tommy)>> Glad he knows his place. [ Music ] If you break it we'll fix it.

(Tom)>> This feels like it needs a tune-up. A little hesitation! I don't hear any big clatter and crank and see smoke or anything.

(Tommy)>> You should have brought along some eight tracks.

(Tom)>> Oh wow! I think I got one or two in the garage somewhere.

(Tommy)>> A guy of your stature it wouldn't surprise me if you were like, well it just so happens. Prepared for any and all occasions. So, how's the steering feel? Does it feel loose?

(Tom)>> It almost feels autonomous. Not wobbly. I'm used to driving old cars with worn steering, but it seems nice to me. I think new shocks would make a big difference too for bringing out the best in its handling, and ride, and braking.

(Joel)>> There went something!

(Tom)>> Was that the hub cap.

(Tommy)>> Man down!

(Joel)>> That's alright. We've still got three left.

(Tom)>> We go back and get it?

(Tommy)>> Heck yeah! This is a '71 Caprice.

(Joel)>> Totally unrelated, does RockAuto sell hub caps?

(Tom)>> Not for a '71 Caprice! [ Music ]

(Tommy)>> Luckily it didn't mess it up. [ Music ] Gotta ride in style. It's alright guys, I got it, don't worry about it. We're good to go! We've got to look good while we're riding. [ Music ] You know it's a lot more convenient when the hub cap comes off than the wheel.

(Tom)>> That's true, especially such a nice, grassy field to go fetch it out of.

(Tommy)>> I was really amazed at how well that four plank wooden fence cushioned the hub cap. It didn't really mess it up. These old big cars like this, I know they're usually owned by a different person than your Mustang, or your Chevelle guy, or something like that, but these are a bit more. Since it's such a unique car of any of the manufacturers. It's not a performance car, but the engine and transmission that was in this car was the same thing you could have got in a Chevelle, or a Camaro, or something. The rest of it is completely different.

(Tom)>> It's as easy to maintain as the real popular classics, the Camaros and Chevelles, but the purchase price is a lot less, and you've got a lot bigger trunk and room for six people.

(Tommy)>> I wouldn't say it's a practical car by any means but it's not an unpractical car. Just for safety's sake, what you were talking about with the steering, it doesn't feel wrong but you're curious if it's just worn. We probably ought to double check all that stuff. Make sure we don't find any hidden surprises. Brakes, there was evidence that someone has been doctoring on the brakes. Safety reasons it's never a bad idea just to go back through that and verify. If you're gonna make a cruiser you've got to make it dependable cause otherwise they're no fun.

(Joel)>> Coming up, we swap out some components and cool off this Caprice.

(Joel)>> We all know that the cooling system is extremely vital to the smooth operation of your vehicle. Yet ironically, it's also one of the most commonly neglected when it comes to maintenance. A lot of times we don't even think about checking or swapping out any of these components until they actually fail. [ drill humming ]

(Joel)>> There are several indicators that your cooling system may be due for a quick once over. Keep an eye out for puddles of coolant, or anti-freeze underneath your vehicle. Old and weathered hoses, a bad thermostat gasket, and your radiator core are also a few common culprits. [ drill humming ]

(Joel)>> A warning sign that catastrophe may be on its way is to check the weep hole on the bottom side of your mechanically driven water pump. This little guy proves vital information about the health of the seals on the inside of your pump. If you see coolant oozing out of this, it's a pretty clear indication that your water pump is on its way out. The hole also allows coolant to escape the housing instead of pushing past the oil seals and contaminating the bearings. Now the water pump that we pulled off this big body Chevy didn't necessarily have any of these indications but based on the corrosion on the outside of the housing and the shape that these gaskets are in this bad boy was due for a swap. [ Music ] Changing out a lot of these components are a hassle but can leave you with a sense of pride and peace of mind. [ Music ] These old fuel lines are definitely a little worse for the wear. Gonna swap those out while we're at it. Updating all the belts, lines, and hoses is a must on a car this old. Some of them have been swapped over time, but like any part on your vehicle they inevitably break down. [ Music ] [ drill humming ]

(Joel)>> It's just one of those commonsense upgrades to help make this a more reliable ride. [ Music ] The next step in our Driveway Rescue is to install our performance radiator that we found at RockAuto. Now what's really cool about this setup is its lightweight aluminum construction makes it about half as heavy as the original. It's also got a multi-rib outer shell to better withstand fluctuating temperatures. Plus, an inch and a quarter inner flute tube size for better circulation. I think my favorite thing about this, it bolts right into place of the factory original. Since your radiator is at the heart of your cooling system optimal flow is your best friend. [ Music ] The owner of this Caprice isn't going for a numbers matching restoration. He just wants reliability. [ Music ] Which is why we opted for adding an aftermarket radiator, hoses, clamps, fan clutch, as well as a new thermostat. [ Music ] Doing all of that ensured the entire cooling system was covered across the board. [ Music ] [ ratchet clicking ]

(Joel)>> Just a couple more little things to button up, but other than that just about ready to get this old girl back to its owner.

(Tommy)>> Up next, we've got a few pointers for you on ignition swaps.

(Tommy)>> In the spirit of making our big body somewhat more reliable we're gonna do an upgrade on the ignition system. Now from the factory that '71 Caprice came with points style ignition. What we're gonna do now is convert it to electronic. Now how all this operates inside of here is relatively simple. What goes on is as the distributor turns it opens and closes the points, and that more or less turns off and turns back on the current flow from your coil. Inside of here there's a couple of things that can wear out. One is the little finger that rides on the distributor shaft, and two is gonna be the actual contacts of the points. What happens in there is they burn or corrode. In efforts to remove all that maintenance electronic ignition was born. Around '73, '74, '75 General Motors introduced h-e-i ignition, and they used it for a bunch of years. We could go that route, but it would require us to get a different distributor, coil, rotor, wires, and so on. Going this route, it allows us to have that stock look and it's not all that complicated. So, we picked up this conversion kit from RockAuto. Now there's not a whole lot to it. We just got to swap out a few components. So, if you're looking for dependability this is time well spent. With our clearances set the next thing we need to do is snake these wires back through the distributor, and this can be a little bit tricky. What I'm gonna do is use this old wire to do all the work for me. I'm gonna cut this grommet out, and then I'm gonna tape one wire to it, stagger the second one, tape it to that, and it should come right through there. He's almost out! There it is! This wire trick was something I picked up from my old man, who always says when you can work smarter, not harder. [ Music ] You want to be careful with these wires not to strip or damage the shielding when pulling them back through, and make sure to reinstall your grommet. [ Music ]

And that's pretty much all it is to it. Now you've got a couple of connections you need to do. Red on the positive side of your coil, black on your negative side.

Now we're ready to drop everything back in and line it up so we can get this disco era dynamo back out on the road. Obviously with pulling the distributor we'll have to reset the timing, and we'll do all that as we finalize our adjustments. You don't want to overtighten these connections. I've seen guys actually crack a distributor. All you've got to do is get them snug. Don't go all He-Man on them. Replacing this old points setup will make for better engine performance and reliability in the long run. Having this setup from RockAuto is key in making this quick and easy switch.

(Joel)>> How'd it go big guy?

(Tommy)>> Just dandy! Ready to stretch this thing back out on the highway.

(Joel)>> Always my favorite part. Experiencing the fruits of your labor.

(Tommy)>> That is as long as they're sweet. [ engine starting ]

(Joel)>> Listen to that kitten purr! [ Music ]
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