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Old 07-10-2013, 06:47 AM   #1
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Cool First Car, First Project: 1999 Camaro 3.8L v6

Well, after graduating from college and returning home to my (new to me) Camaro, i decided it was time that i start really making it my own. I've spent a lot of time on this forum reading up on all the different threads pertaining to my car as well as participating a little bit here and there. I figured now would be as good a time as any to get started on my build and to start up my build thread.

First, a little about the car: it is a 1999 Camaro Base Coupe with 107,xxx miles. It is all stock (or so i was told- i'll get to that later) and it is GM Navy Blue Metallic with grey interior. I got it for a very low price at a local car dealer. I found the car through an ad on CL. Turns out the dealer just wanted to sell the car and move it off his lot (didn't fit in with his customer base and selection) so that definitely worked to my advantage. After seeing that it was in very good condition and felt great to drive, i knew there was no way i could pass it up. I've always loved Camaros and was dying to get my hands on one.

Next, my goals: This car will be my daily driver as well as hobby/project vehicle. I do not have any real plans on racing it, haven't really found any tracks nearby and i'm not stupid enough to street race, we'll see if i find any place worthwhile though and go from there. That said, i am not looking to make a crazy drag car out of a v6, while i love the power i know the time and money wouldn't be worth it without an engine swap- again, not an option, not just for a DD, i want to embrace the 3800 Series II, not just go around wishing i had an LS1. So my ultimate goal is to increase performance and power within reason (as in not breaking the bank over it) and increase fuel efficiency. At the same time however, i will not be skimping out on anything, if a mod is too expensive for me to perform but it will have a real benefit, i'll simply save until i can afford it, not try to find a less desirable work around. Lastly, i want to make it my own, give it my own touch and see what i can come up with, it's my first car and first big hobby, i plan on making it look as good to me as i can, if other people happen to like it too that will be an added bonus! .

The Build:
I decided first things first, clean the crap out of it. While the car was in very good condition both inside and out it definitely had its fair share of "human slime" (as the awesome guys from Youtube's "Mighty Car Mods" refer to it). I rented a rug doctor at the local grocery store an went to town on all the upholstery. Needless to say, it was far more disgusting than i could have imagined, especially in the back seat where there was clearly a child, probably a girl (dolls and toy jewelry under the seat). once it was nice and clean i detailed the rest and made it nice and shiny- neighbors began to take notice and come over to check out the car.

First mod: I decided to stick with a company i've known and trusted for a while, K&N (CAI in my brother's truck and air filters in parent's cars). I decided i wanted to keep the factory air box so i went with a K&N replacement air filter instead of the CAI. I'd love to get my hands on one of those ever so elusive Whisper lids or the equivalent but i'm not getting my hopes up too high!

Tune-up: I decided to give the car a tune-up, i didn't want to rely on the previous owners or even the car lot's mechanic and figured it would be the best way for me to get to know my car and figure out exactly what i was dealing with. I did a routine oil change and found that it was pretty dirty so i was glad i changed it. I upgraded to a K&N Oil Filter and used Valvoline Max Life high mileage Synthetic Blend 10w-30 (a friend of mine gave me the oil so i used it although i'm probably switching to Mobile 1 or Amsoil next time). I went to find the spark plugs and was still semi-surprised with how they weren't very visible (i'd previously read about how difficult they were to get to but i never could have imagined what i found). Try as i might i wasn't able to get to them and didn't want to risk anything on my first shot (not to mention i'm not the smallest guy so trying to fit my hands in there was not going to happen). At this point i decided to take it to my mechanic friend so he could use his proper lift and tools etc. while i watched and learned just how terrible of a design it is for anyone hoping to work on it! He eventually finished the not-so-easy job and successfully installed my AC-Delco Iridium plugs. he also performed a compression test at my request and found each cylinder to be at 130 lbs. While it wasn't the generally ideal 140 to 160, i was still very happy with it considering the age and unpredictable former maintenance. At this point i also had him flush the coolant and check the rest of the engine integrity. he advised me of a few less than desirable items (not so much problems as they were possible future problems or things to look out for, but nothing major). I also found out that the transmission was new (no details on it yet) as well as the catalytic converter and fuel line filter.

Next mod, sort of: After taking the car back home i noticed it was having some trouble starting at times. i hoped for something minor and just happened to get lucky. After checking 2/3 battery cells on one side i found that they were both bad and decided to just buy i new one. I went with an Optima red-top battery and have been happy ever since, no more start-up problems!

Mechanic round 2: After cleaning the engine and using some Marvel Mystery Oil to clean out the internals i noticed some lingering white-smoke along with carbon firing out of the exhaust. while i knew some was to be expect a little while after using the mystery oil, this seemed to linger and was nothing like i had seen on other vehicles it had been used on. So i took it back to my friend and let him do a thorough examination. he then found out that i had essentially cleaned the engine "too well" resulting in some sloppy seals etc. While i was a bit disappointed this had happened i was also glad it gave me an excuse to tear down the engine and check on everything else while i was in there. With his help we removed the heads and found them to be in rough but fixable shape and sent them off to be re-machined. They were cleaned up and repaired and sent back to us, one was actually cracked and was replaced, not fixed. While we were there we also found that a previous owner had bored each cylinder by .5 which if i calculated correctly (still don't quite understand the equation) it would seem the engine is now closer to a 4.0 L. I decided to just play it safe and replace every gasket and seal i could get to and ensure i was using quality parts. Also decided to change the piston rings and check on the rest of the engine which i have yet to get to. i also found out that the lower intake manifold was pitted around the water ports. i didn't want to risk having a bad seal there so i found one at a scrap yard and am waiting for it to arrive. I also took this opportunity to completely clean the rest of the engine. i took the upper intake manifold and both valve covers home along with the throttle body and alternator. I degreased them, polished them up and painted them (pictures to come later) with some VHT Engine Enamel/Metallic. I successfully finished the valve covers and manifold and am currently working on the throttle body and alternator. Currently the car is completely torn down and awaiting parts, i can't wait to get it back on the road (i figured i'd do all this major work now before i get a real job and start grad school!).

Mod 3: I decided to take advantage of the car's current state and get rid of those God-awful stock exhaust manifolds. I purchased some Pacesetter short tube headers which i am currently awaiting and anxious to bolt on!

Mod 4: If i'm doing headers then i HAVE to do exhaust right??? After much research and many attempts to hear the different cat-back systems out there, i decided to go for broke and go with the Borla system. Magnaflow was a close second but there was just something about the look of the Borla along with the slightly different sound that i couldn't get over (even for the noticeable price difference, but hey! i got a FREE hat! lol). i'm also anxiously awaiting the time when i can put it on and hear it roar.

Next sort-of Mod: I also decided to go with some MSD 8.5mm spark plug wires which i will eventually combine with some new MSD ignition coils- don't have the money for them yet.

I am definitely having a lot of fun with this project, i have learned a hell of a lot from my Dad and friend and couldn't be more excited to get the rest of the parts in so i can get her back on the road and feel the difference.

Next Project: Brake system. I currently have in my garage a set of front and rear Powerstop Rotors w/ Evolution ceramic Brake Pads, Power Stop Calipers and some Goodridge SS Brake Lines. I will be installing each of those as soon as my current project is finished as well as flushing the brake fluid and adding whatever i find is best (still researching that).

Distant project: New Suspension- leaning heavily toward Eibach but haven't researched enough nor am i ready to make a decision.

Well, that is all for now, hopefully i haven't bored you too much, I'll be pretty surprised if anyone makes it to the end of this in one sitting but even so if there is anything you'd like to know i'd be happy to tell you. Also i am always open for advice. I am pretty new to the car world and would love to learn anything and everything i can. I'd also love to hear your thoughts on my car and my build. Also remember this is my first real post other than my introduction so bare with me as figure this thing out and load pictures etc... Keep it friendly, keep it constructive and keep it fun! We're all here for our love of the Camaro (and Firebird of course :P)!
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1999 Camaro 3.8L v6: Stock (work in progress)

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Old 07-10-2013, 06:50 AM   #2
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More Pictures!

here are more pics of the various stuff i talked about in my previous post:
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Old 07-10-2013, 06:53 AM   #3
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Still more pictures!

Here are a few more!
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Old 07-10-2013, 06:44 PM   #4
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Quick Update

pulled the engine today, replacing front and rear seal. going to take off the timing cover and see what kind of condition everything is in, also checking on the oil pump.

Lastly, Found out my headers are on back order, i have to wait until the 18th now (originally ordered them on the 20th)
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Old 07-10-2013, 11:27 PM   #5
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Throttle body painted and clear coated, waiting on a new screen (current one has a bunch of crap burned on and had a little damage from a rock or something in the past, who knows) to finish it up. Alternator was painted today, going to clear coat it soon. New (used) lower intake manifold arrived today as well cleaned it up as best as i could and sending it to get professionally cleaned in the next couple days. pictures coming soon!
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Old 07-11-2013, 01:45 AM   #6
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Looks great! Look forward to seeing the finished product.

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Old 07-11-2013, 02:09 AM   #7
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Awesome man! Yeah I finished it all in one sitting lol. Sounds good, good luck with it all. I'm sure it'll come out nicely!
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Old 07-11-2013, 03:28 AM   #8
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Looks clean. Nice find.
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Old 07-11-2013, 05:01 AM   #9
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How do you paint the alternator? I've always wondered. Any pics of the process and finished?
As much as I like blue I think the black and silver looked fantastic.
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Old 07-11-2013, 05:40 AM   #10
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Thanks for all the support!

I'll be posting some pictures of the alternator as soon as i can, i don't know if i got very many because it was a super meticulous process. Basically i found that there are 2 ways, either have a re-builder (or yourself if you know how) take the alternator apart and just paint the shell like normal. The more difficult way is to actually tape up the inside of all the holes. from what i found a little over spray on the wires wont hurt too bad since the copper is dipped anyway BUT you obviously don't want to just spray them outright. So i basically took a lot of time and a lot of tape/foil and did my best to cover everything under the shell using a few different tools (exact-o knife, tweezers, scissors and screw drivers). I have never done this before so i'm not entirely sure if it will work properly etc. but i will definitely post back with my results, i just hope i covered it well enough!

I also loved the silver and black and as both a die-hard Raiders and LA Kings fan, every instinct was telling me to leave it alone, HOWEVER the silver was actually only primer grey and i wanted it to blend and accent the car better (which is Navy Blue Metallic) plus my truck has a silver and black theme. so i went for the black and blue which i am very happy with, especially after seeing it in the engine bay.
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Old 07-16-2013, 07:16 AM   #11
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Update

Well I've definitely kept busy with the project. The alternator and throttle body are completely painted and ready to go. Unfortunately i didn't get as many pics of the process as i hoped for (it was super tedious and i got caught up in it and didn't think of taking pics along the way ). I went with primer, black metallic and clear on both (few coats of each) and let them bake in a makeshift oven (placed parts under an aquarium during the heat of day- thermometer in the aquarium maxed out at 125 F). I also managed to get the oil pan and timing cover off. I cleaned the pan and will be painting it along with the flywheel and crankshaft pulley mostly for protection from rust etc. somewhat for looks. The timing chain looks OK, but that won't cut it so i am replacing it with a brand new (better quality) one. Also, same as before: every gasket will be replaced (going with FelPro all the way around). I also picked up a new upper and lower radiator hose (Gates) and a new serpentine belt (Gates). Both belts had some corrosion i will be looking into before i replace them with new ones. I will post a few pictures of the progress and continue to update as i can. Headers should be in this week, i hope! I might also be ordering a new tensioner & idler pulley but i'll be checking on those tomorrow, still not sure if i just need the tensioner pulley or the housing that it is attached to as well- i'm sure my mechanic will help me out.
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Old 07-16-2013, 07:23 AM   #12
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Throttle Body

So for the throttle body i just made sure to be super careful with the MAF Sensor, pretty much just removed it carefully and set it aside in a safe place so i wouldn't have to worry about it while working with the throttle body. After cleaning and degreasing the outside and inside with some throttle body cleaner i was able to polish it up pretty well and prep it for paint. i made sure to tape off all the plastic so that i wouldn't have to worry about it peeling sooner than the rest. i also taped off and polished the area where the gasket would go. Once that was done it was as simple as priming, painting, coating and baking. I also figured this was a good time to replace the air screen that straightens the air out for the MAF sensor, so i picked up an AC Delco replacement from RockAuto. Here are the results:
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Old 07-16-2013, 10:49 AM   #13
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Looks great, keep up the good work!
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Old 07-24-2013, 04:22 AM   #14
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In for a penny in for a pound...

So i couldn't bare to leave any stone un-turned while my engine was out. I figured it would be worth while to do a 100% tear down and make sure everything was up to my standards... I'm glad i did. I found that 2 of the 3 cylinders on one side of the block were scored from the pistons. At some point one of the previous owners really over-heated the engine and screwed a lot of things up- not to mention they either used the wrong coolant or just water or something because there is insane corrosion on more of the coolant ports so i've replaced almost everything i could. I also found household silicone on the rear seal housing... someone got lazy, or was broke. That definitely also helped explain why there was some significant oil leakage. I managed to find a new housing at the dealer for surprisingly less than i expected so i picked it up right away. I am waiting on a new (used) timing cover ("engine front cover" as i learned GM refers to it) thanks to the insane corrosion in my coolant ports, it even ate through to the bolt on one side. I had the engine bored out once more (previous owner did it once and the pistons said .5... i'm not really sure how the math works behind it but the machine shop did another .5 i believe in order to clear out the scoring (see pictures). Also the crankshaft was remachined and looks awesome now! I found out my transmission mount was torn apart so i got a stock replacement (hydraulic mount) from rockauto. my headers also finally came in but since i had to send the block out and order oversize pistons and rings that has been pushed back. Aside from the machine work on the block i was also able to paint it before installing the new pistons (forgot to take pictures but i will later). As far as this post's title goes "in for a penny in for a pound" i decided i couldn't finish this project without a new cam and valvetrain job. SO.... i think i am going to order the GT1 cam from ZZP as well as the CompCams Hydraulic lifters OE-850's along with the 90# springs, modified steel retainers and upgraded valve locks. I will admit i know next to nothing about the valvetrain/cam so i am just going off of research and what the guys at ZZP tell me. hopefully this is the right package and everything will roar nicely together. I also understand i will need a tune in order to prevent the cam from throwing any codes, i was planning on doing a tune anyway with all the mods however i am still looking for a place here in San Diego that will do it for me. If all else fails i'll do a mail order tune, but there's nothing quite like watching the car on the dyno for a custom tune! I also managed to finish up some more cleaning/polishing/painting if i can't fit everything in one post i'll put up one more with just pics.
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Old 07-24-2013, 04:26 AM   #15
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More pics

Here are some more as promised, trying to choose the best ones so as not to spam you guys!
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Old 07-24-2013, 04:30 AM   #16
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last pics... i think?

Hopefully this is the rest for tonight, hope you guys like them! I'll post some more with my next update. I just finished the flywheel and tensioner pulley as well but i don't have pics yet. Hoping to order the cam etc. tomorrow!
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1999 Camaro 3.8L v6: Stock (work in progress)

2000 Ram 1500 3.9L v6: Flowmaster Exhaust, K&N Cold Air Induction System (work in progress)
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Old 07-24-2013, 04:35 AM   #17
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Nice.
Got an expense report? Have you even attempted to tally up what you've spent on this project?
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Old 07-24-2013, 04:38 AM   #18
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Nice.
Got an expense report? Have you even attempted to tally up what you've spent on this project?
I'm making a spreadsheet as we speak! i am going to itemize everything with part numbers cost and manufacturer/distributor. I have been slacking on making it but i am keep every single receipt etc. so i can just go back to them. right now i'd say including parts and labor i am around the $3-$4k mark, not including cam etc. Once this "phase" is done, i will post the spread sheet for better insight.
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Old 07-24-2013, 04:42 AM   #19
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Awesome! I look forward to it.
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Old 09-27-2013, 03:38 AM   #20
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Been a long time... sorry!

Alright, well it has been quite a while since my last post. i was hoping to stay on top of it better but not only has the car been keeping me busy, getting a job and getting into grad school has taken up all my time!

So i'll try to keep it quick unless anyone wants any specific details... The engine rebuild is complete and pretty amazing, definitely above my expectations. In the end, the cylindars were bored, i put in a ZZP GT1 cam, with LS1 Valve springs/retainers and comp cams lifters etc., pacesetter headers, 3in custom exhaust w/ 3in cat and 3in Borla catback, MSD wires, all new sensors across the board, new water pump, new rear seal housing, polished lower/upper intake manifold, polished heads, polished TB, FTP Ram Air Intake, all new gaskets, and re-machined crankshaft. I also installed the powerstop break kit/calipers and Goodridge SS Brake lines. Basically everything was either cleaned, remachined, replaced or upgraded... there's honestly not much left in terms of performance that wasn't worked on in one way or another. Right now i am breaking the car in (first 500 miles or so) then i will be performing another oil change including oil filter and checking all the bolts etc. Once that is complete i will be taking the car to get dyno tuned at a local shop.

I also just placed an order for Strano's Handling Package #7 which includes: Koni 4/4 shocks, Strano Springs, Strano 32/22mm sway bars & Bushings etc. as well as new poly bumb stops. as soon as i install these parts i will be purchasing some BFGoodrich g-sport comp 2's

the car sounds mean and performs pretty amazingly even though i havent been able to really push it yet prior to the tune and break-in. I'll post a few pics and like i said, if anyone is interested in anything specific, let me know. i'd be happy to go into detail i just dont have quite as much time now a days!

I spent the last 2 days really detailing the outside of the car, i cleaned the inside of the wheels, 14ish years of breakdust and other junk came right off with some Eagle wheel spray or something, worked AMAZINGLY. I also picked up and orbital buffer/polisher and washed, polished, buffed, waxed and rebuffed the car. it's looking pretty great!
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