Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Happy 40th Little Spyder!! May 22, 2018

40 Years ago today, this AM.. A pile of processed orders was being set into action as the morning shift (Monday, May 22nd, 1978) at the plant got up to running speed on production day 180 of 242 total for 1978. In this pile of A- shift order's was the order for a Monza. The 98,837th Monza to be exact. This particular build order was calling for an 'R07' body style.
At an earlier time, in preparation for today's build's, freshly welded up bodies that had passed a series of critical inspections, were set into a staging area or "Body Bank". Due to some cars, being held back at the inspection area's for repair's or even a re-run, the number's of these chassis would be jumbled all over the place.
Eventually, in the Body Bank area's they probably had a few of each body type, (M07, R07, M27, R27, + a few other's) with the firewall punched out for A/C or not. ready on demand to keep a steady flow of available unit's from there on.
In this case, for this Monza, #98,837. Chassis #368872, an R07 with the Non A/C firewall, was the next one ready to go. Once the order was married to the unit, the car would get a trim tag punched up and riveted to the frame, to be able to go through the final painting stages without any paperwork attached to it. At this point or sometime around this point the car got hooked and locked into the conveyor system in line at #7346, the final build sequence.
This order called for code #75 red. The car, along with some part's that would catch up with it later, was color sprayed, sanded, and baked in an oven for a short time.
Some extra steps were involved in this build requiring some black accent's as called for in the production process of car's getting the Z02 Spyder Decal package.
With the paint just dry enough to handle the car likely got a few buildsheet's taped to it, and was sent to get some initial bare necessities, like 'Mastic' Sealer's, Glass, Interior Wiring and Insulation.
Then it was time for it's interior to get installed.
Just a while earlier, teletype printer's had been spitting out roll's of buildsheet data at different department's around the plant. In the Interior area, A set of seat's that had been Stitched up in the specified 62J Tan Cloth was selected and installed into the car but not before the carpet installer quickly stashed the extra buildsheets of the floor of the car.
The rest of the interior was completed as ordered, and the car was most likely then 'Handed off' to Chevrolet final assembly from Fisher Body (although it was all just considered GMAD by then). All this while remaining locked in final sequence with builds 7435 and 7437 surrounding it. They could have and would have been a completely different make and/or bodystyle.
Final assembly...probably in just a few more hours of time, as I write this... maybe into the B shift of that day.. would bring the car into it's final form, all it's final trim (including the decals), the major mechanical's, and running gear, fluid's, final paperwork, test's and inspection's, would all be carried out from here, throughout the day, and into the late afternoon. As the evening rolled in,
a fresh red monza spyder, as brand new as it would ever be,
was ready to roll out into the shipping lot's waiting to get loaded onto it's car carrier and head to it's destination dealership in Western, NY.
If all went as planned, some lot worker got to hop in and hot rod up and down a few back row's before getting it parked.
If any final inspections weren't passed, and that was all to likely...the car would have hot rodded over to the repair yard to get corrected and then sent of it's way.
This write up leaves out quite a bit including the all the processes involved with the initial stamping and welding of the chassis.
All this info was gathered from what the CRG (Camaro research group) compiled about Firebird production that occured just before the Vega at Lordtown. And from conversations I've had with plant workers. Also Phillip Boris, Norwood plant historian, and other's who I thank.
So if you see this Spyder wish it a happy 40.

Friday, April 20, 2018

It's 4/20... Do you know where your Sunbird is??

I know mine are both tucked away safe thankfully... one of them 40 year's to the day it was built... Happy 40th Birthday to my Sunbird which was scheduled to run on this day, April 20th in 1978.

At some point my paperwork was received and some sheet metal blanks were loaded into giant stamping machines, and my unit began to take shape from there.

Here it is, in it's former glory.     Fortunately, I still own the car and I can keep it inside. It isn't far from being road worthy, however, it unfortunately sits in a dusty corner awaiting time and money that it might never see.  And worse yet, It was stripped of it's tail panel to save a more complete car.  This was a replacement one anyways, but it did make the car complete.  I have a plan to fabricate something, perhaps this year.

Happy Birthday Old Bird!!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Way out on a wing and a prayer...

Way out on wing and prayer is the title of this installment...   I’m on an unusually long drive, unusually far from home, at an unusually late hour, trying to go keep the 55mph speed limit going on soggy roads.   Lot’s of steep grades, some twists and turns, all unfamiliar territory.  I’m deep in the forests of Northern Pa, it’s nearing dusk, and it seems like the perfect recipe brewing to encounter some wildlife on the road…    If the end story of this car was going to be “that one fateful journey” I thought this might be it. If something were to have happened it might have been quite a pickle… No other traffic around.  No houses or signs of civilization… No-one on any CB channel.   
I’d recently gotten off of Pa, Highway 80 eastbound.  A safer way home where there were plenty of resources if need be.
So here’s the whole story. This was a Saturday evening in May of 2016. I was just on my way back home from Lordstown Ohio, where I brought the car to display at the GM plant in Lordstown where it was originally assembled. ( 1 day shy of exactly 38 years!!).  
After the show, instead of making a much more direct run back home, I decided on a daring adventure. (daring because it’s not in my nature to drive this car like a regular daily driver, and double daring because it’s getting dark, I’m not sure where I’m going to spend the night, and the weather is suggesting I just play it safe).   
But safe isn’t where memories are created, and I’d already got my heart set on swinging by the “Kinzua” bridge… so of I headed, Eastbound from Lordstown…back into the soaking drizzle that had spent the afternoon drifting eastward over the show.
So off I went down the well traveled Highway 80, until It was time to exit to the 219 to carry me north to the park, and then into NY. 
At the 219 I stopped to ask myself one more time if I really wanted to head into the remote and heavily wooded hill’s.  I didn’t have time to second guess, it was Now or never and I chose Now.
This picture was just as I started out. It got progressively worse from there.  Darkness crept in. My eyes strained to follow the rainy, unfamiliar roads. While also scanning the edges for wildlife.  Fatigue set in, and I was now a dangerous driver. Fighting the conditions, of the road, and drowsiness in my head. 
I did happen through a few tiny villages along the way…  being well lit, they were easy to get through, and I felt more awake. Thinking I’d probably find a small motel I’d roll right through, and eventually find myself heading out of town and back to the treacherous forest.  On a dark rainy night. With no where safe to pull over. In a 38 year old vehicle, still running it’s 38 year old electric fuel pump…That was basically started up a driven 300 miles away from the garage just the day before. 
After a while of high beam’s and wipers ( Rare ‘Delay’ Wiper option came in handy) barely penetrating the moonless dark forest road.  There came an Oasis in the night…    A brightly light up 20 pump gas station, on an otherwise dark and rural crossing of 2 main routes. Rt 6 and the 219.  Not very far from my destination in the morning… but for now it was around 11 pm, still raining and not safe to press on. So the decision was to just take an easy in-car ‘nap’ for about 6 hour’s or so, then press on in the early morning when it would be much safer to do so.  
There’s this whole other little experience I had at this strange motel / lodge thing across the street. But I’ve already typed a novel here.  No one was there at the place even though the lobby was open?  So I just crashed in an open parking area the gas station.  The pitter-patter of rain on the roof of the car, made a great soundtrack to drift off too.  I felt bad about the car getting so soaked, but I considered it, it’s yearly rocker panel flush-out. 
In the morning, with only the bird’s to usher in the daylight.. I headed to the destination….  Kinzua Bridge state park.   On the way I had this cool CB conversation with 3 truckers that passed by me, going the other way. I’d missed the entrance and they steering me back in the right direction. They had a lot of nice things to say about my car, so that was a great start to a very cool morning at the park.

I arrived with absolutely NO-ONE around but the bird’s in full morning tweet, and the critters scampering around here and there. The rain finally passed by overnight and left the morning in a Fog thicker than pea soup, which really added to the morning ambiance.   Where I parked required a little walk through the woods.  Solemn. Somewhat creepy, yet so peaceful and refreshing. 
I ended up at the overlook pictured above…(with all camera batteries dying and memory cards full, I just managed to capture the morning on the overlook in the picture above.   All other footage of the trip remains elusive right now. or I’d share more.  
After a excellent and exciting morning at the overlook. I jumped back into the monza, fired it up, and headed back through the rest of a very scenic, enjoyable, and remarkably trouble free journey!  It was collector car’s dream ride.
      Hope you enjoyed this story as much as I enjoyed this journey!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Wheel's wheel's wheel's.

Over the the years of owning my little red Monza Spyder,  I've run an assortment of the 13" wheel's available from the factory.  

If your familiar with these cars, you may know of the unique bolt 4" bolt circle this car uses, which limit's this cars wheel choices to basically what came from the factory.  There have been some bolt on aftermarket rim's, in "14. But I've only run these 4 different set's of stock wheel's below.

This was the first set:  These are the Factory 
"round hole" Aluminum rim's, AKA the "mirage" rim. 
These rims are made of aluminum. They are lighter than the any other factory rim and they mount the are offset about a 1/4 outboard on each side from the factory steel rim's..
Adding to the appearance in this picture, the car is equipped with 1 inch lowering spring's. 

Here' one of the few other pictures I have of these wheels on the car.  I did like them a lot, but for some reason they didn't complete the look of the car to me.  I think it's the spyder package there's just to many unusual thing's to look at.  These rim's do better to dazzle up a more plain jane model.

 In this picture I made a visit to see another
Spyder. An orange '77.  

Here in the picture I ran the factory original "Rally II" Rim's.  These rims are a 4 spoked stamped steel rim  with a Chrome Trim ring.  a little bit Porsche like, and quite a common look in the 70's.

I liked the look of these rim's. The large chrome trim ring ties in with the car's other chrome trim, but they have a little to much visual pull... the black center's match the trim, and stay subdued in the over all look of the car which is nice but this also leaves the contrasting tan interior as the odd-man-out.

During the 5 or so years (on and off) that I ran these rim's, (and still have them),  I liked that the car was in 100% factory appearance ( also back to original height springs again).  But on the down side, these rims are a bit heavier that the aluminum rim's. And being original, they've seen a lot of miles and potholes, these did't balance out as smoothly as I would like.  My final take is that these rim's are what you want to give a run of the mill Vega that sportier GT look.  They work well for that. But this car isn't the 'GT' it's the fancy-pant's 'spyder' model and the rim's could do more to cater to that on to some other rim's..  

Next: Chrome Rally II's

After wearing the last set of tires down, I had these rare Chrome Rally II's from an Oldsmobile Starfire GT.  (Chrome version not offered on monza).  So they weren't stock appearing, but they looked really good and the car got a lot of new compliment's.  On quick glance they looked like mini 5 spoke Craggar's.   I liked them, but the tires wore down and they also didn't balance that well...
The chrome look was back. And of course chrome does look good against red.

And Finally we get to what the car currently run's.  My favorite wheel of all time. What's most commonly known as a Cosworth Vega wheel.  And while these wheels were specific to the Cosworth, they were also offered as a special option in 1978 as the "styled gold" wheel.   So while not factory to my car, they at least could have been.

These wheels "Complete' the look of this car to me. They add that peculiar 70's touch I couldn't get with the other wheel's. 
I believe they compliment the car in 2 important way's...   1st. Is the spokes. They fan out like 'spider' leg's and there's 8. Perfect.  2nd. The gold color, contrasts the red in that 70's kind of way yet, ties in visually with the gold Spyder script on the door and of course the unusual-against-red tan interior.

Those effects get the rim to tie in with the rest of the vehicle.

To make the deal even sweeter, there from a low milage car, and came with an excellent like new set of expensive and impossible to find Dunlop 205 /60 13's.   I'll be sad when these are worn away!

These rim's taught me how crude my steel rims were, these ride as smooth as glass!!

I've never been happier with a set of rim's.  I can't see the car running anything else for the time being.  When the time eventually comes to replace the 13's I might then upgrade to a similar looking rim only in 14 or 15.